Health Insurance Marketplace

Health Insurance Marketplace
Starting October 1, 2013, the Health Insurance Marketplace, sometimes known as the health insurance exchange, began open enrollment. Coverage started January 1, 2014.

The marketplace website,, will be the primary tool for delivering information to Americans about their health coverage options. As prominent providers of Internet access and digital literacy training for people who lack Internet connections at home, libraries can anticipate intensified demand for computer services. For Spanish speaking consumers, is also available.

Health Insurance Marketplaces are where people and small businesses can shop for and buy private health insurance. Consumers will have the same health plan choices available to members of Congress. The marketplaces are not private insurance companies or government-run health plans.

With one application, consumers can find out if they qualify for health plans in the marketplace, and other programs like Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), tax credits, and cost-sharing reductions.

What Kansas Libraries Can Do
The State Library of Kansas (SLK) arranged for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to partner with libraries and present a series of webinars specifically for Kansas librarians and also a separate series of webinars for Kansas library patrons. These webinars were held within the Blackboard Collaborate web conferencing software like other SLK events.

The patron specific webinars will also be held within Blackboard Collaborate and are to be provided to patrons in the format of a watch party. Libraries were encouraged to host a watch party and spread the word regarding these events. Patrons may view archives of these sessions on-demand by viewing past SLK webinars.

Archives of all events will be available, and follow-up webinars will be scheduled as needed.

Librarian-Specific Webinars
Patron-Specific Webinars
Assisting Patrons
The role of Kansas librarians, as it relates to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is to assist patrons in locating the Health Insurance Marketplace and provide appropriate assistance in accordance with the Code of Ethics and local interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights. Librarians should be aware of the following resources:
Navigators (not library staff) have a vital role in helping consumers prepare electronic and paper applications to establish eligibility and enroll in coverage through the marketplaces and potentially qualify for an insurance affordability program. They also provide outreach and education to raise awareness about the marketplace, and refer consumers to health insurance ombudsman and consumer assistance programs when necessary. Navigators play a role in all types of Marketplaces, are funded through state and federal grant programs, and must complete comprehensive training. On August 15, 2013, CMS awarded $67 million in Navigator Cooperative Agreements to 105 entities to serve in the 34 federally-facilitated and state partnership marketplaces.

Certified Application Counselors
The federally-facilitated marketplace will designate organizations to certify application counselors who perform many of the same functions as navigators and non-navigator assistance personnel, including educating consumers and helping them complete an application for coverage. These groups might include community health centers or other health care providers, hospitals, or social service agencies.

Agents & Brokers
CMS expects agents and brokers to play a key role in the new marketplaces. To the extent permitted by states, agents and brokers will play an important role in educating consumers about marketplaces and insurance affordability programs, and in helping consumers receive eligibility determinations, apply for premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, compare plans, and enroll in coverage. In particular, CMS anticipates that agents and brokers will play a critical role in helping qualified employers and employees enroll in coverage through the Small Business Health Options Programs (SHOPs). We anticipate that many consumers will want to obtain professional advice from agents and brokers when applying for and selecting a qualified health plan.

Libraries are being asked to make use of official resources available to partners, including the following:
  • Website widgets and badges - it is recommended that these be added to your library's website
  • "Drop-in articles" are available that can be used in newsletters, etc.
For CMS statistical purposes, please fill out our survey to provide 1) population served 2) name of website in which you added a badge or widget and 3) name of the publication in which you placed a drop-in article.

Training Materials & Presentations
  • There are additional training materials for partners and on-demand presentations for those interested. These resources include an overview of the Health Insurance Marketplace, the Health Insurance Marketplace 101, and the overview of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace.
  • You can also visit the YouTube channel.
Additional Resources
Background Information
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to Partner with Libraries (Press Release)
  • IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant-making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit the IMLS website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
  • CMS is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CMS is the federal agency which administers Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program. CMS also provides information for health professionals, regional governments, and consumers. Additional information regarding CMS and its programs is available at the CMS website.