The Associated Press (AP) revealed that federal officials had revealed to the AP early that a major announcement would be made today (Sunday, June 30, 2013) at the 2013 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference: that up to 17,000 public libraries would help the public shop for insurance health insurance online. [This seems to mean all public libraries because according to the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency that makes grants to museums and libraries, there were 17,078 public libraries in Fiscal Year 2010.] This effort will be coordinated by the IMLS and the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
These two federal agencies already worked closely together during the rollout of the Medicare prescription drug benefit. The Chicago-based ALA is holding the 2013 ALA Annual Conference in McCormick Place in Burnham Park along the lakeshore of Chicago.
Starting Tuesday, October 1, 2013, people who are not currently covered by health insurance plans will be able to start shopping for health insurance policies online via Web sites that offer tax credits to defray the cost. [In some states, poor people will be able to enroll in a larger version of Medicaid.] The U.S. Government expects approximately 7,000,000 people to buy insurance online through the new marketplaces in 2014.
However, the emphasis on the Internet will place at a disadvantage people without access to a computer. This is where public libraries come in to play.
They have public computers, most of which can access the Internet. Relating a conversation with Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the, the anonymous author of the AP article described libraries as “a bridge across the digital divide.”
Public libraries already help 28,000,000 people annually find health information via public computers alone (this is, not counting patrons reading health science books), according to the IMLS. Further, public libraries have public meeting rooms.
According to the AP writer, “Libraries will be particularly important in conservative states that are not making much effort to promote the health law’s opportunities.”
The Dallas Public Library already has a link to HealthCare.gov on its Web page. The AP writer related that IMLS Director Susan Hildreth pointed out libraries can also embed the widget on their Web sites.
She also that that individual libraries may choose to set aside some public computers for patrons seeking health insurance or to cooperate with health centers to create educational events. Ms. Hildreth explained the IMLS has commissioned the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) to develop both an online tool kit and training webinars for the benefit of librarians can answer questions they are likely to be asked by the public.