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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Libraries Serve As Health Insurance Info Hubs

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Libraries As Key Sources For Health Information

Libraries have always been more than book lenders, providing services that include early childhood education, employment assistance and computer literacy skills. The economic downturn heightened the need for those services, and health information has long been in demand.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) estimates 28 million people sought health information from libraries in one year.

“So we know people are going to the library and we want to make sure librarians know about community resources and web sites that they need to give them accurate information,” says Mamie Bittner, director of government affairs for IMLS, who was in Philadelphia for the conference. 

As the Newbery and Caldecott awards excitement was going on, Bittner and a handful of other librarians from Texas to Idaho to Northeast Pennsylvania were brainstorming about ways to help their patrons navigate the process of signing up for health coverage.

Last summer, IMLS issued a $286,104 grant to craft webinars geared toward librarians. More than 1,000 have participated since that launched, Bittner said.

“There are pressures on libraries. They are stressed in many ways, but meeting the high priority information needs of their community, that is their job," she says, noting that libraries were active in assisting seniors with the launch of Medicare Part D, for example.

'We Saw An Influx'

Bittner says libraries “are assuming a variety of roles” as it relates to the Affordable Care Act. Not all are going as far as the Free Library in Philadelphia. “Other staff are just being ready, so that they know where the websites are and can help people find them,” Bittner says.

In Delaware, state librarian Annie Norman, says they’ve been thirsty for useful, accurate information so they can best assist patrons.

“We saw such an influx of people needing job assistance, that when this big health care initiative was coming in, we thought ‘They’re going to be coming in! 35,000 people could be on our doorstep with questions,’ so we wanted to be prepared to help them,” Norman says.

Thu, Feb 13 2014

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