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Public libraries critical to health coverage during public health crisis

CHICAGO – The eighth open enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) began on Sunday, November 1, 2020 and will run through December 15, 2020 during what may be the most challenging year in its ten-year history. Millions of Americans have lost jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic, leaving many without employer-sponsored health coverage. In its third consecutive year, the Public Library Association (PLA) initiative, Libraries Connecting You to Coverage, offers a suite of free tools and resources to help library practitioners assist patrons in enrolling in health insurance coverage.

Public libraries, as critical community anchors, are well positioned to share information about insurance options, including the Affordable Care Act, and to support patron’s efforts to enroll successfully. At the federal level, funding for outreach and advertising has been reduced each year since 2016, shifting the burden of education and assistance to state and local levels. In 2020, public libraries may expect to see an increase in patrons seeking health insurance assistance due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The public library’s role in connecting people to computers and the internet is also critical, given that increasingly, outreach and enrollment is taking place virtually due to closures and social distancing. All public libraries, especially those in states that utilize the Marketplace, are encouraged to take advantage of free resources to reach uninsured community members, improve health outcomes, and reduce medical costs in their communities. 

Library staff should determine the type of health insurance marketplace used in their state (state-based or federally-facilitated via For states using the Marketplace:

  • Open enrollment begins November 1 and ends December 15. Patrons who are uninsured or who need to renew their plans can do so at HealthCare.Gov starting November 1.
  • Coverage is more affordable than people think. In addition to steady premiums, most enrollees will qualify for tax credits to lower their monthly costs. Last year, about 8 in 10 enrollees qualified for financial help, and 2 in 3 shoppers could find a plan for $10 a month or less.
  • All ACA plans must cover key benefits like mental health care, maternity care, and prescription drugs.
  • The ACA protects people from discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. The ACA’s provisions that protect from pre-existing condition discrimination are still in effect.

PLA helps libraries create healthy communities and is pleased to have the support of Community Catalyst and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to promote insurance enrollment. Through PLA’s Libraries Connecting You to Coverage web site, libraries can access free resources. These include ready-made communication assets for social media, radio and other outlets; materials that can be printed and hung or distributed focusing on getting started with enrollment, special enrollment periods, and more; and instructions on adding the MyHealthfinder content to your library’s website. PLA also encourages libraries to promote health information courses on, including Using to Enroll in Health Insurance and Using MyHealthfinder for Preventive Care, and offers recorded webinars for library staff on open enrollment, health literacy, reaching the uninsured and more. Questions about the initiative and resources may be directed to Leighann Wood, PLA Program Manager at [email protected].

About the Public Library Association
The Public Library Association (PLA) is the largest association dedicated to supporting the unique and evolving needs of public library professionals. Founded in 1944, PLA serves nearly 10,000 members in public libraries large and small in communities across the United States and Canada, with a growing presence around the world. PLA strives to help its members shape the essential institution of public libraries by serving as an indispensable ally for public library leaders. For more information about PLA, contact the PLA office at 1 (800) 545-2433, ext. 5PLA, or [email protected].

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