Friday, October 18, 2013

Be Informed: The Affordable Care Act

Barack Obama
The Affordable Care Act is a federal statute that was signed into law on March 23, 2010.  The Act is actually composed of two separate bills, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148) and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111).  On June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Act is constitutional and the Act is set to take effect in 2013. 

Among its provisions, the Act establishes an insurance marketplace at, where users can compare plans and get information about the law and its requirements.  Users may utilize the Plan Finder feature on the website to decide what kind of coverage would be best for them. There’s also a toll-free number for information and enrollment at 1-800-318-2596. 

October 1, 2013 — Open enrollment begins
January 1, 2014 — Coverage begins (if you qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, your coverage may begin immediately)
March 31, 2014 — Open enrollment closes until next year’s enrollment period begins.  Please note that you might be eligible for enrollment after this date if you have a qualifying life event such as a job loss, birth, or divorce.
According to the West Virginia Library Association, the following will be required in order to enroll for coverage:

Social Security Numbers (or document numbers for legal immigrants)
Employer and income information for every member of your
household who needs coverage (for example, from pay stubs or W-2
forms—Wage and Tax Statements)
Policy numbers for any current health insurance plans covering
members of your household

If you don’t have health coverage in 2014 and you can afford to have it, you may have to pay a fee.  The fee in 2014 will be 1% of your yearly income or $95 per adult ($47.50 per child)—whichever is higher.  The most that a family will have to pay in 2014 is $285.  Please note that the fee will increase every year.  For more information about the fee, visit the IRS’s page on the Individual Shared Responsibility Provision.

Links to Printable Applications:

Instructions for Health Coverage with No Financial Assistance
Application for Health Coverage with No Financial Assistance

Instructions for Health Coverage and Help Paying Costs (short form)
Application for Health Coverage and Help Paying Costs (short form)

Instructions for Health Coverage (standard family form)
Application for Health Coverage (standard family form)

*Please note: KCPL provides these links as a service to our users, but our staff do not have the expertise to help you choose the form that you need.  For assistance, please contact one of the agencies listed for your county on this site.*

Frequently Asked Questions

West Virginia-Specific Websites

West Virginia Health Policy Unit — West Virginia's Health Insurance Marketplace, which lists local help by county and also includes guidelines on enrollment procedures.

Obamacare Implementation: Legal Aid of West Virginia — Provides a chart outlining household size and income requirements, as well as additional information about Medicaid enrollment.

General Websites

Resources  Available at KCPL:
book cover image
Gruber, Jonathan. 
362.1 G88h

Jacobs, Lawrence R.
362.1 J17h

Kirk, Michael
362.10973 OBAMAS

Nather, David
344.73022 N27n

Starr, Paul
362.10973 S79r

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Be Informed: The Government Shutdown and Debt Ceiling Deadline

Closed sign on a monument
Beginning October 1, portions of the federal government were shut down following a failure of Congress to pass appropriations bills for funding.  This document includes resources that will help you understand the causes of the current shutdown, its effects on you, and the consequences of a potential breach of the debt ceiling.

This isn't the first time that the government has shut down.  Some might remember a major shutdown in 1996, but there have actually been 17 times that government funding has lapsed since 1976.  In the event of a shutdown, federal workers are classified by their departments as either "essential" or "nonessential".  "Essential" employees continue to work during a shutdown, although their paychecks might be delayed.  A list of shutdown contingency plans by agency may be viewed here.

World War II Memorial by Don McCullough, on Flickr
How can you tell what's closed and what's open?  CNN has a detailed chart which lists agency status, number of employees, and additional notes.  The Wall Street Journal offers a similar tool which provides an estimated percentage of employees on furlough.  For more information about how the shutdown impacts you directly, you might view this page, which collects individual stories from social networks.  The Washington Post lists additional consequences here, including the shutdown's effect on coal mine monitoring and burro adoptions.  Further resources about the shutdown are listed below.

Entitlements like Social Security payments are not expected to be affected by this shutdown.  However, if the government reaches the legal limit on borrowing called the debt ceiling, it's possible that payments might be delayed or only issued in part.  The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the limit might be reached between October 22 and November 1.  This page will be updated to reflect changes and new events.

Additional Resources

Resources Available at KCPL

A People's Guide to the Federal Budget
Kramer, Matthea
A People's Guide to the Federal Budget
352.4973 P41

Furgang, Kathy
Understanding Budget Deficits and the National Debt
339.523 F98u

Congress A to Z
R 328.73 C74 2008

Checks and Balances: the Three Branches of American Government
Find out why Congress has the power to pass or block government funding in this ebook

This is only a partial list of our resources.  If you'd like more information, please contact the library at (304) 343-4646 or by email at