Decoding the Affordable Care Act

This week, my instructor for Information Services for Specific Populations asked us to explore some of the materials the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published in preparation for the controversial Affordable Care Act (ACA).  While most of us are aware that the ACA is a big deal, being equipped to help patrons navigate the ACA is daunting at best.

Photo c/o Morguefile
Photo c/o Morguefile

As an individual who has been fortunate enough to be on her parent’s health insurance for her entire life, I find myself regrettably unaware of a lot of the policies and red tape currently surrounding the world of health insurance.  The documents that the IOM has produced are helpful, but overwhelming if you’re new to the world of insurance.  For that reason alone, I think that they are important to read and understand.

Ready or not, librarians are the “front line” for many patrons. We must be equipped to help patrons get the information that they need, and to which they are entitled.  Three different documents exist that I think all library professionals should be aware of, particularly with the enactment of the ACA approaching, and each is appropriate for a slightly different audience.


For the Insurance Novice

Patel, K.K., West, M.L., Hernandez, L.M., Wu, V.Y., Wong, W.F., Parker, R.M. 2013. Helping Consumers Understanding and Use Health Insurance in 2014. Discussion Paper. Institute of Medicine: Washington, D.C. (Linked here)

“Helping Consumers” is a comprehensive and detailed overview of the ACA, changes to health insurance laws, and a beginner’s guide to enrolling in benefits.  It is in plain language, so it is a great resource for library staff as well as consumers.  This is one that might be good to keep printed out at the reference desk.

For the Seasoned Beneficiary

Patel, K, Parker, R., Villarruel, A. and Wong, W. 2013. Amplifying the Voice of the Underserved in the Implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Discussion Paper. Institute of Medicine: Washington, D.C. (Linked here)

This significantly shorter (than the other two) article provides a brief overview of the ACA and its purpose, and is a resource well-suited to a currently insured individual who isn’t quite sure what all of the hullabaloo is about.

For the Information Professional

Victor Y. Wu, V.Y, et al.  (2013). Let’s Ask 4: Questions for Consumers and Providers About Health Insurance. Discussion paper. Institute of Medicine:  Washington, D.C. (Linked here)

“Let’s Ask 4” is not an appropriate document to hand out to patrons, but it will help information professionals navigate an information session.  It lays out slides and a presentation script, and is a great instruction tool.  As the ACA nears, I anticipate that many libraries will host events about understanding the Affordable Care Act, making this publication an invaluable tool, and an excellent place to start.


Will your library host a program to address the ACA?  If you’re still in library school, how is your program addressing (or not) this change?


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