Libraries to Help Get Word Out About Health Exchanges

With the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges set to come online in a few months, the American Library Association is teaming up with the federal government to help provide information about them to the public.

The Affordable Care Act is a complex law, but libraries across the country will be helping people make sense of it later this year.

They’re already a destination many individuals go to when they’re seeking out information and understanding on a variety of issues.

It’s all part of a plan to help inform the public about health insurance exchanges that was announced over the weekend at the American Library Association’s annual conference in Chicago, which ended Tuesday. More details:

Why libraries? With their wide reach in communities across the country, libraries were a natural choice for helping educate consumers about buying health insurance through the new online exchanges, according to the Obama administration. “Libraries are a tremendous resource for people in their communities,” ┬áJulie Bataille, spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told the Associated Press. “They’re already a destination many individuals go to when they’re seeking out information and understanding on a variety of issues.” And many people who will be eligible to sign up for the health insurance exchanges might not have computers, and libraries are a common place for those who need computer access to go. Some 28 million people rely on library computers each year to access health-related information, according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency.

How associations are helping: The ALA is playing a key role in this effort, with 17,000 of its member libraries taking part. On Sunday, the ALA’s Washington office held an informational session to discuss the program with conference attendees, particularly to talk about the role of the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), a nonprofit service that received a $286,106 grant from the IMLS to support the initiative, according to the Wall Street Journal. The center will offer toolkits and webinars to librarians to help them prepare for the informational effort.

The library initiative will begin on Oct. 1, when the online health insurance exchanges open to the public. It isn’t the first time for such an undertaking: Libraries also provided information on the rollout of the Medicare prescription benefit, Bataille noted.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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