There are six more weeks for Californians to enroll in the healthcare insurance marketplace during this initial open enrollment period. Now seems a good checkup time for public libraries to evaluate how well we have provided information and technology access to this Affordable Care Act program.
Have you and your staff been keeping up to date on changes, including regulations and scheduled online enrollment site down periods? The quickest and most efficient way to do that is by subscribing to and following Covered California's Twitter feed .
An announcement made there (and via other social media routes) last week alerts us all to the SHOP portal on the Covered California website coming down for the next several months. The explanatory news release  includes the important detail that paper applications made for small business employer coverage will continue to be accepted and moved through the enrollment process during this period. Does your small business community know about this change?
In the first two months of the open enrollment period, public library staffs were reporting a generalized lack of inquiries from their communities regarding ACA. Interestingly, they also reported doing little in terms of public education--including such activities as hosting insurance education and health and wellness programs. Changes in the demographics of who can and does have health insurance points to new insurance users who may have little understanding of health insurance speak (for instance, the difference between co-pay and out of pocket costs) and need some basic math skill-building (to calculate and compare percentages). Many who previously relied on emergency rooms to provide any medical attention they identified for themselves as needing aren't experienced in how to discuss--and understand clearly--health information with a personal physician (for instance, the difference between a diagnostic test and a test related to a medical procedure). Has your adult literacy partner developed curriculum that addresses these needs to find educational help?
Six weeks ago, other components of the Affordable Care Act went into effect. As of January 1, very specific patient rights and protections  must be recognized, including an end to yearly and lifetime dollar limits an insurer will pay; free preventive care; mental health and substance abuse services coverage; and other details that can change how long-time insured people, as well as those new to health insurance coverage, when and how reliance on insurance provides new areas of care access. Do your communtiy members know about these changes already in effect?
While roll out of the health insurance enrollment regulations related to the Affordable Care Act has received lots of popular media coverage, digging below that surface of opinion to lay bare the information that still needs to reach your community is an ongoing project.