LINCOLN — Nebraskans and Iowans seeking information on their options under Obamacare may find help as close as their local library.
Public libraries in both states have been gearing up to offer information about the federal law as Tuesday's start of open enrollment in the health insurance marketplace nears.
Mary Wegner, the Iowa Library Services' state librarian, said she expects people to turn to libraries with questions about the new marketplace just as they now come in with questions about income taxes and unemployment benefits.
In all three areas, librarians can provide information, though not advice.
Librarians “point people in the direction of sources of information so they can make their own decisions,” she said.
Wegner said some of the questions probably will come from people who use library computers to sign up for private health insurance made available through the new online marketplace.
Other questions may come from people puzzled about something as they are enrolling or exploring their options at home and then call or go to the library for answers.
The marketplace is the centerpiece of the health care overhaul, offering a one-stop place for people to shop, compare and buy health insurance. People qualifying for tax credits to offset premium costs can get them only through the marketplace.
Mary Sauers, government information services librarian for the Nebraska Library Commission, said it has been presenting webinars to bring librarians up to speed on the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
The commission also has offered ideas for getting information out to people.
She said many local libraries responded by scheduling information sessions, in cooperation with other community groups.
Some have times planned when people can walk in to get individual enrollment assistance from specially trained guides, called navigators, or from insurance agents.
Several libraries are adding links and basic guides to their websites. Others have printed handouts to give to people.
“I think libraries here in Nebraska are going to be in incredibly good shape for Oct. 1,” Sauers said.
The Nebraska and Iowa library efforts are part of a national partnership between the federal government and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The partnership builds on libraries' traditional functions as providers of information and computer access.
“Libraries are a lifeline for Americans who wouldn't otherwise have access to information and communication technologies,” said Cathy DeáRosa, vice president of OCLC, a nonprofit computer library service and research organization.
Obamacare at the library
Programs planned at Omaha Public Libraries to help people understand their options under the Affordable Care Act:
Group information sessions led by an AARP representative. Registration required.
╗ 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Millard Library, 13214 Westwood Lane, 402-444-4848
╗ 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Charles B. Washington Library, 2868 Ames Ave., 402-444-4849
╗ 11 a.m. Saturday at Benson Library, 6015 Binney St., 402-444-4846
╗ 4:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at South Omaha Library, 2808 Q St., 402-444-4850
╗ 6 p.m. Oct. 9 at Milton R. Abrahams Library, 5111 N. 90th St., 402-444-6284
╗ Noon Oct. 11 at W. Dale Clark Library, 215 S. 15th St., 402-444-4800
╗ 6 p.m. Oct. 16 at W. Clarke Swanson Library, 9101 W. Dodge Road, 402-444-4852
╗ 10 a.m. Oct. 17 at Florence Library, 2920 Bondesson St., 402-444-5299
╗ 11 a.m. Oct. 19 at Saddlebrook Library, 14850 Laurel Ave., 402-884-7473
╗ 6 p.m. Oct. 24 at Bess Johnson Elkhorn Library, 2100 Reading Plaza, 402-289-4367
╗ 2 p.m. Oct. 29 at Sorensen Library, 4808 Cass St., 402-444-5274
╗ 4:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at Willa Cather Library, 1905 S. 44th St., 402-444-4851
Individual help provided by independent insurance agents from Marketplace Nebraska
╗ 10 a.m. Oct. 7, 21 and 28 at W. Dale Clark Library
╗ Noon Oct. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 at Willa Cather Library
╗ 4 p.m. Oct. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 at Charles B. Washington Library
╗ Noon Oct. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 at Florence Library
╗ 3 p.m. Oct. 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 at South Omaha Library
Group information sessions for small businesses and the self-employed. Registration required.
╗ 6 p.m. Oct. 8 at Bess Johnson Elkhorn Library
╗ 6:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at Millard Library
A guide to the Affordable Care Act is available at guides.omahalibrary.org/affordablecare.
Visit omahalibrary.org for information about additional programs.
Programs planned at the Lincoln City Libraries:
Group information sessions led by an AARP representative. No reservation required.
╗ 6 p.m. Thursday at Walt Branch, 6701 S. 14th St.
╗ 11 a.m. Oct. 8 at Eiseley Branch, 1530 Superior St.
╗ 2 p.m. Oct. 17 at Anderson Branch, 3635 Touzalin Ave.
╗ 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at Gere Branch, 2400 S. 56th St.