Libraries Stress Neutrality as They Prep for Queries on Health Care Law

Article excerpt

Library workers nationwide are educating themselves about the next implementation phase of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which is slated to begin October I (see page 6, this issue). On that date, the Health Insurance Marketplace opens to an estimated 7 million people who are uninsured so they can select a health-insurance policy.

"Libraries have a long tradition of making information available to their patrons and we will make health and insurance information available to them as they need to make choices around the Affordable Care Act," said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of ALA's Washington Office.

Although the role of libraries seems clear to most in such a rollout--the neutral provision of information and resources about ACA to those who need it--some critics aired concerns that libraries were being used as pawns to advance a partisan agenda.

"Our staff is busy enough as it is without having to deal with all the extracurricular activities revolving around this," Brown County, Wisconsin, Supervisor Brad Hopp said in the August 7 Green Bay Press-Gazette. "We do not have the resources--financially, administratively, or expertise-wise." To ward off the problem he perceives as exposing the county to such woes as "protesting, picketing, and media scrutiny," Hopp has proposed an ordinance that would bar county workers, including those employed by the eight-branch Brown County Library, from using county resources for "nonmandated" ACA-related activities. Hopp is also calling for a fee of $1,500 per hour to use county property for an ACA activity.

"Our responsibility is to provide information to people who need it," Brown County Library Director Lynn Stain-brook said in the Press-Gazette, noting that answering reference questions about ACA is no different than explaining how to apply for unemployment benefits.

"As a licensed health insurance agent," Jason Wisneski commented on the newspaper website, "I can tell you with certainty that it is absolute LUNACY for ANY government workers, let alone librarians, to try to assist consumers in making a major medical insurance purchasing decision. …