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Preparing SC Libraries for the Affordable Care Act: Home

About the Affordable Care Act

US CapitolThe Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress and then signed into law by the President on March 23, 2010.  On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court rendered a final decision to uphold the health care law.

  • What if Someone Doesn't Have Coverage? As part of the Affordable Health Care Act, U.S. citizens and legal residents will be required to have qualifying health coverage by January 1, 2014. In preparation for this, a health care exchange called the Health Insurance Marketplace (a place where consumers can purchase subsidized health insurance coverage) will be available on October 1, 2013.

Why Libraries?

At the 2013 ALA Annual Conference, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and WebJunction, a program of OCLC, to assure that librarians have the information and connections with local experts needed to connect their patrons to information about the Health Insurance Marketplace when open enrollment begins October 1, 2013.

This project is supported through an agreement with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and while work is just getting under way, the following is intended to support state and public libraries in understanding initial priorities for this work.

Libraries have a long history of meeting public demand for consumer health information. A recent IMLS study showed that an estimated 37 percent of library computer users (28 million people) use library computers and seek assistance from librarians for health and wellness issues, including learning about medical conditions, finding health care providers, and assessing health insurance options.

Libraries are likely to see an increased demand for these services with the establishment of federal and state-run Health Insurance Marketplaces, which open for public enrollment on October 1, 2013, as part of the Affordable Care Act. 

For Libraries and Staff

As part of the Affordable Health Care Act, U.S. citizens and legal residents will be required to have qualifying health coverage by January 1, 2014.  In preparation for this, starting October 1, 2013, the Health Insurance Marketplace, sometimes known as the health insurance "exchange" (a place where consumers can purchase subsidized health insurance coverage) will be available.

Health insurance exchanges are where people and small businesses can shop for and buy private health insurance. Some states are choosing to create their own marketplace, while other states such as South Carolina will use the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. Consumers will have the same health plan choices available to members of Congress. 

The marketplaces are not private insurance companies or government-run health plans. With one application, consumers can find out if they qualify for health plans in the marketplace, and other programs like Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), tax credits, and cost-sharing reductions.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced a partnership to help libraries get ready to respond to patron requests for assistance in understanding and navigating new health insurance options in the Health Insurance Marketplace.

  • The Marketplace website will be the primary tool for delivering information to Americans about their health coverage options. As prominent providers of Internet access and digital literacy training for people who lack Internet connections at home, libraries can anticipate intensified demand for computer services. 

Training Opportunities

WebJunction received an IMLS grant to provide information to the library community regarding opportunities and resources to connect patrons to health and wellness information.  Although the project is still in development, an eHealth section on the WebJunction website has resources available now to help libraries get started.   Also included in this project will be a needs assessment regarding patron requests for health information and the development of a comprehensive guide for public libraries to utilize in helping patrons navigate health information at their local library.

WebJunction hosted a webinar, Libraries & Health Insurance: Preparing for October 1, to share information about plans to provide library staff with online resources to respond to increased patron information needs related to the Affordable Care Act.

Meaningful Use: Libraries connecting patrons to ACA resources: August 28 at 1:00 p.m. EST. As libraries look ahead to the October 1 open enrollment date for the health insurance marketplace, there is an abundance of information about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and many opportunities for public libraries. One of the key roles that libraries can play is to maintain an awareness of available resources in your area, and develop an approach for connecting patrons to those resources in the way that makes the most sense for your community. Please join this interactive session, where we will discuss strategies for libraries to identify ACA resources, hear from libraries that are working to prepare for patron requests, and obtain key policy and resource updates from ACA experts. If you cannot attend this live session, a recorded archive will be available to view at your convenience. Please sign up to receive notifications about this project, including when the archive is available. Visit WebJunction to register for this event.

More Training Materials

South Carolina Health Resources

  • South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is the state agency charged with protecting public health, coastal resources, and the state's land, air and water quality as authorized under multiple state and federal laws.

  • South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is the state agency that oversees Medicaid.  Medicaid is South Carolina's aid program by which the federal and state governments share the cost of providing medical care for those persons with low income. It is not to be confused with Medicare, a health insurance program for all people age 65 and over or who have received Social Security disability benefits for a minimum of 24 months. An individual can have both Medicare and Medicaid. 

  • Hands on HealthSC - Information resources and links to other high quality, easy-to-use, and appropriate health and wellness websites.  Special attention is paid to health issues of particular import to South Carolina citizens and communities.

General Health Information

It is likely that there will be an increased request from the public for general health information. Below are great resources for providing quality consumer health information. 

  • MedlinePlus MedlinePlus, the National Institutes of Health's website for patients and their families and friends, is a comprehensive site for consumer health information. Produced by the National Library of Medicine, it brings you information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues in language you can understand. MedlinePlus offers reliable, up-to-date health information, anytime, anywhere, for free.
  • eHealth Through the IMLS grant, Webjunction will develop a comprehensive guide for state and public libraries to utilize in helping patrons navigate health information at their local library and facilitate an online community of practice for librarians to connect and share resources related to patron engagement around areas of health and wellness.
  • Rural Assistance Center (RAC) A product of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Rural Initiative, the Rural Assistance Center was established in December 2002 as a rural health and human services "information portal." RAC helps rural communities and other rural stakeholders access the full range of available programs, funding, and research that can enable them to provide quality health and human services to rural residents.

Communication Tools

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who are actively partnering with IMLS in this work, shared some of the key resources and timelines available for individuals who wish to learn more about and enroll in the Affordable Care Act at

Other Communication Tools for the Library

  • The YouToons Get Ready for Obamacare For an entertaining and understandable look at the health insurance changes related to the Affordable Care Act, check out this video from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

  • Affordable Care Act from ALA  The American Library Associations' page on the Affordable Care Act provides links to policies and key resources for librarians.

South Carolina has chosen to use the federal health insurance exchange, named the Health Insurance Marketplace, for health insurance rather than implementing a state-based exchange. The federal exchange is located at For Spanish speaking consumers, is also available. 

  • Find Local Help Get personal help applying for health coverage

  • State Information Patrons can learn more about South Carolina's health insurance exchange option.
  • Medicaid Expansion South Carolina currently has not chosen to expand their Medicaid program in 2014. Find out how this affects health insurance choices. 

Three Ways to Apply

  • Online at

  • By mail

  • In person through certified navigators (available in September 2013)

Call the toll-free phone number 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325) for help applying. Assistance is available in multiple languages.

Key Dates

  • June 2013 - The Marketplace Call Center opens 1-800-318-2596 TTY: 1-855-889-4325

  • July 2013 - Set up an account at

  • September 2013 - Get personalized help in your area

  • October 1, 2013 - Open Enrollment starts

  • January 1, 2014 - Health coverage can start

  • March 31, 2014 - Open Enrollment ends

PDF handout with these dates.

More Information

  • The federal government is currently evaluating grant applications from organizations who will serve as certified navigators for health insurance. These navigators will be trained by the federal government and will provide in-person assistance to individuals. This help will be available in September.

  • WebJunction eHealth FAQ - Over the next year, WebJunction will continue to identify and disseminate information to the library field that will expedite their ability to respond to patron requests in this and other areas of health and wellness, as relevant to unique library communities.

Glossary provides a glossary of terms related to insurance in general and the Affordable Care Act. Here are a few key terms.

Affordable Care Act

The comprehensive health care reform law enacted in March 2010. The law was enacted in two parts: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010 and was amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act on March 30, 2010. The name “Affordable Care Act” is used to refer to the final, amended version of the law.

Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Insurance program jointly funded by state and federal government that provides health coverage to low-income children and, in some states, pregnant women in families who earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford to purchase private health insurance coverage.

Health Insurance Marketplace

A resource where individuals, families, and small businesses can learn about their health coverage options; compare health insurance plans based on costs, benefits, and other important features; choose a plan; and enroll in coverage. The Marketplace also provides information on programs that help people with low to moderate income and resources pay for coverage.


A benefit your employer, union or other group sponsor provides to you to pay for your health care services.

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