Overview: Affordable Care Act

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In March 2010, President Obama signed comprehensive health reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), into law. Created by the Affordable Care Act, Health Insurance Marketplaces, also known as Exchanges, are set up to facilitate a more organized and competitive market for buying health insurance. The current open enrollment period for first time and renewal enrollees runs from November 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016. Individuals enrolling or changing plans by December 15 will receive coverage starting January 1, 2016.  Enrollments or changes between January 16 and January 31 take effect March 1, 2016.

Since Wisconsin has declined to accept federal funds and set up a state sponsored exchange, the federal government will assume full responsibility for running a health insurance exchange in Wisconsin. See HealthCare.gov below.

Wisconsin’s decision to adjust the state’s Medicaid program to cover adults only earning up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level ($11,490 a year for a single person) will require those living above it to enter private insurance exchanges.  For information on Wisconsin Health Care Programs including BadgerCare Plus, Wisconsin Medicaid, and prescription drug programs. See ForwardHealth (Wisconsin Department of Health Services) below.

As key providers of information, Internet and digital literacy resources, libraries are encouraged to respond to ACA related information requests in the way that makes the most sense for their local communities. Libraries and library staff will not be expected to become ACA experts, but rather empowered with knowledge of available resources to which their patrons can be connected.

No federal or state funding has been allocated to public libraries to assist with enrollment. Librarians have long served as facilitators of reliable and accurate information when it comes to consumer legal, health and financial questions. Similar to the annual distribution of federal and state income tax forms, libraries provide access to the tools for ACA enrollment, but librarians are not be trained to provide specific advice to individuals in the selection of a plan.

The following resources have been selected by WVLS staff for the consideration of patrons and library staff who want to learn more about this law, its effects and how to participate. To suggest changes or additions to this collection, please email Kris Adams Wendt at kawendt@wvls.org.

The Marketplace is a new way to find health coverage that fits your budget and meets your needs. It simplifies your search for health coverage by gathering the options available in your area in one place. With one application you can compare plans side-by-side based on price, benefits, quality, and other features important to you before you make a choice. Questions? Call 1-800-318-2596, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (TTY: 1-855-889-4325) or connect with HealthCare.gov on social media: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. » [Library Access]

Get the facts about the Affordable Care Act with educational fact sheets from AARP's department of Education & Outreach.  Included are printable publications about the basics, the law and specific populations, provisions of the law, the law and Medicare, and information for small businesses. See also: AARP Health Insurance home page. » [Library Access]

Providing easy-to-understand comparative information to help consumers make the best decisions in the marketplace has been the mission of Consumer Reports for 76 years. Their Affordable Care Act reports include 8 tips for navigating the health insurance maze; How to apply for a health insurance subsidy and Shop Smart for the Right Health Insurance Plan This Year. See also ConsumersUnion Health Care Policy and Action from Consumer Reports.  » [Library Access]

Covering Wisconsin is a statewide coalition dedicated to reducing health disparities and improving overall health in Wisconsin by working in partnership with UW-Extension and other organizations throughout the state interested in participation in public health insurance programs. Enrollment assistance and Navigator contact information, information about Medicaid, BadgerCare and the ACA Marketplace, health insurance literacy & consumer engagement.         » [Library Access]

Enroll America is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to maximize the number of uninsured Americans who enroll in health coverage made available by the Affordable Care Act. Enroll America is a collaborative organization, working with partners that span the gamut of health coverage stakeholders — health insurers, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, employers, consumer groups, faith-based organizations, civic organizations, and philanthropies — to engage many different voices in support of an easy, accessible, and widely available enrollment process. » [Library Access]

EnrollWI.org is Wisconsin’s resource clearinghouse for those engaged in building awareness and providing training about the Affordable Care Act and the Health Insurance Marketplace, and for those directly assisting enrolling Wisconsin residents to enroll in affordable health insurance. The website includes links to enrollment assister training events and consumer events calendars and an enrollment assistance directory organized by county. » [Library Access]

ForwardHealth covers benefit programs in Wisconsin including BadgerCare Plus, Wisconsin Medicaid and prescription drug programs if you need assistance or additional information in these areas.  Wisconsin has declined to accept federal funds through the Affordable Care Act and adjusted the state’s Medicaid program to cover adults earning up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level ($11,490 a year for a single person), but require those living above it to enter private insurance exchanges.  See HealthCare.gov for details.  » [Library Access]

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website displays key features of the Affordable Care Act, links to fact sheets on various associated topics and a Wisconsin page summary. » [Library Access]

This website highlights resources examining Marketplaces and related issues. Kaiser is a nonprofit, private operating foundation focusing on the major health care issues facing the U.S., as well as the U.S. role in global health policy. It serves as a nonpartisan source of facts, information, analysis and journalism for policymakers, the media, the health care community, and the public.   The Kaiser Family Foundation health insurance and savings calculator will give you a rough estimate of how much health insurance may cost.  » [Library Access]

This website is managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Here you will find more information about how the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act are related to Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).  » [Library Access]

A video tutorial, quick start guide and "four easy steps" to learning the basics, understanding costs, knowing your state plan and getting ready. » [Library Access]

A succinct list of frequently-asked questions and resources regarding the Affordable Care Act and its implementation in Wisconsin. » [Library Access]