Everything You Should Know About The Health Care Law

September 24, 2013

Inside-the-affordable-care-act or Obamacare. In one week at the beginning of fiscal year 2014 on October 1, 2013, and at the start of the calendar year on January 1, 2014, the provisions of the new health care law go into effect. Image courtesy: Charlotte Area News.

The health care law, known officially as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or  more commonly as “Obamacare” has two parts: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (Public Law 111–148), and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (Public Law 111–152 which was enacted to amend the PPACA. It was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2010.

Since that time, in the span of 42 months, the health care law has been upheld by the Supreme Court and some early provisions have already been implemented. Upon conception of the law, 2014 was marked as the year the most significant provisions of the law would go into effect.

Find information about these marketplaces for Individuals and Families or Small Businesses on the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Healthcare Marketplace website, https://www.healthcare.gov/.

Image: U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Healthcare Marketplace website, https://www.healthcare.gov/

A week from today on October 1, 2013, open enrollment for the health insurance marketplaces begins and remains open for six months closing on March 31, 2014. Find information about these marketplaces for Individuals and Families or Small Businesses on the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Healthcare Marketplace website,  https://www.healthcare.gov/. There are links to healthcare marketplace information in other languages as well:

The high profile provisions that go into effect on January 1, 2014, include:

  • Coverage begins if you signed up through the health insurance marketplace
  • Protection for individuals with pre-existing conditions
  • Elimination of annual limits on insurance coverage
  • Tax credits to help pay for costs if you sign up with a health insurance marketplace
  • Expanded access to Medicaid, subject to the state you live in
  • Individual mandate if you choose not to buy health insurance


Image courtesy: New York Daily News.

This is a basic overview of the law. To fully understand the details requires further reading, and GPO is here to help. GPO makes the authentic, published version of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act available to the public in print through the agency’s Online Bookstore and digitally through GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys). GPO also works with 1,200 libraries nationwide through the Federal Depository Library Program to have resources on the health care law available to public.

How do I obtain a copy of this Affordable Care Act (ACA)?

1) Buy a printed copy

  • Shop Online: You can purchase a printed copy of the Health Care Act containing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore or by shopping our Public Health Policy & Healthcare Laws collection under our Health & Benefits category.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy a printed copy at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Find it in a Library: Find this in a federal depository library.

2) View or download a PDF from GPO’s official Federal documents database, FDsys:

About the Author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. Additional content provided by Government Book Talk Editor: Michele Bartram, Promotions & eCommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division.

Social Security Facts and Figures

September 10, 2012

Guest blogger, GPO Public Relations Specialist Emma Wojtowicz, reviews a new publication giving the “Fast Facts & Figures” about the U.S. Social Security System.

The Federal Government offers many publications to educate and inform the public. If there is a topic that interests you or that you want to learn more about, Government publications are a great resource. Not all publications are long, dense and written as legal briefs.

Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2011 is a 36-page booklet that accomplishes what the title suggests – providing readers with fast facts and figures about Social Security.

Social Security is always a hot topic with election-year fact checkers, and this annual publication does a good job breaking down the information so the reader can understand and better grasp this important topic.

The introduction describes the publication as a “chartbook” which it is with at least one chart, graph, or table on each page. This is a smart way to present the information because it allows the reader to gain a lot of knowledge from just scanning each page.

Like most Government-related publications there are many acronyms that readers are not familiar with, luckily, this publication includes a list of abbreviations and acronyms on the second page which is helpful for understanding the content, such as OASI which stands for Old-Age and Survivors Insurance.

The data focuses on Social Security programs for retired workers and their dependents, disabled workers and their dependents, and survivors of a deceased worker, which benefits or assists over 59.2 million Americans.

Here are some of noteworthy Social Security facts and figures for 2011:

  • Of all adults receiving monthly Social Security benefits, 44% are men and 56% are women.
  • The recipients of Social Security benefits are  64% retired workers, 15% disabled workers, 12% survivors of decreased workers, and 9% dependents of a retired or disabled worker.
  • The average Social Security benefit for a worker who retires at full retirement age is $1,176 per month, and the maximum Social Security benefit a worker who retired at full retirement age can receive is $2,366 per month.
  • The average Social Security benefit for the children of a deceased worker is $750 per month.
  • Social Security is financed from three sources: 82% from payroll taxes, 15% from interest earned on Government bonds held by trust funds, and 3% from income taxes on Social Security benefits.
  • For 73% of single elderly (nonmarried aged) beneficiaries (and 54% of elderly couples receiving benefits) in 2011, Social Security provided at least 50% of their total income. Social Security benefits make up over 90% of the total income for 43% of single elderly recipients (and 22% of elderly couples), making Social Security benefits a critical source of monthly income for them to live on (See image below).

The one downside to this publication is that is does not thoroughly explain how Social Security benefits are calculated for recipients; there is a benefit formula, but it is not easy to understand. Despite that negative, the publication provides thorough data in an easy to read format that helps familiarize readers with Social Security.

HOW MAY I OBTAIN “Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2011”?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s US Government Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

Invest in Women, Invest in America

April 3, 2012

In honor of National Women’s History Month 2012 and its theme of “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment,” I wanted to write about a thought-provoking publication that just came across my desk about women and their evolving role in the U.S. workforce.  Since the founding of America, women like Betsy Ross have played a critical role in contributing to the economic fabric of the U.S. economy and  American households.

Image: Sewing circle presided by working mother Betsy Ross, who started out as first a home sewer before being educated as an upholstery apprentice. She  then ran an upholstery business with her husband, before managing her own business when her husband died by sewing tents, blankets and flags for the American Revolution.

Invest in Women, Invest in America: A Comprehensive Review of Women in the U.S. Economy was prepared by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.

It forms part of GPO’s Online Bookstore National Women’s History Month collection of Government publications celebrating women’s contributions to America.

Outgoing Chair of the Committee, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, said in a December 2010 letter that the goal was to prepare a “comprehensive review of women in the U.S. economy so that policymakers could have a better understanding of women’s essential contributions to our economy and their potential to play a stronger role in our economic recovery.”

PART I: Invest in Women, Invest in America

Part I of this publication starts with an overview of the decades of progress of women in the workforce. For the first time, we learn that women now comprise half of the U.S. workforce.

Next, relating to this month’s theme of education providing empowerment for women, the report shows that women earn more college degrees than men at every level, from 57.4% of the bachelor’s degrees to over 60% of the Master’s degrees in the United States.

And it demonstrates just how important women’s earnings have become to overall household income, particularly in families with children. For example, by 2008 over 6 in 10 families with children under 6 have the mother working outside the home, and women are the sole job-holders in over a third of American families with children.

The “Invest in Women” publication discusses the three key factors that are still holding women back, including:

  1. underrepresentation in business leadership roles,
  2. a “persistent gender wage gap” in both public and private sectors, and
  3. an “out-of-date framework for social support.”

Factor 1: Underrepresentation of Women in the Executive Suite

Under this factor, the report puts forth both current figures and possible causes about why “women remain dramatically underrepresented in corporate boardrooms and executive suites” in the United States. Some figures shared in the report show that while women comprise 46.4% of all Fortune 500 employees, they make up just 15.7% of board seats, 14.4% of executive officers, 7.6% of top earning executive officers, and only 2.4% of CEOs.

This contrasts to studies included in the report that demonstrated that “companies with more women board members, on average, significantly outperform those with fewer women by 53% on Return on Equity, 42% on Return on Sales, and a whopping 66% of Return on Invested Capital.

Factor 2: Persistent Gender Wage Gap

In the private sector, “Invest in Women” reports, “women working full-time earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men”— a gap the report says has not improved since 2001. This wage gap is true also for the Federal Government where “women managers earn 81 cents for every dollar earned by their male manager peers”.

Source:  Women’s Media

Factor 3: An Out-Of-Date Framework for Social Support

Here the report offers the premise that “our nation’s public policies are still rooted in the antiquated assumption that families rely on a single male breadwinner” when today’s “reality is that most families depend on two breadwinners.” Discussion of the issues relating to lack of paid leave, particularly sick leave and the burden it places on mothers who often “still bear the primary responsibility for their children’s health” are followed by sections on inflexible work arrangements and insufficient “quality, affordable early care and education.

This ends with an interesting analysis of the nation’s current retirement system and its effect on women. The report points out the lifetime earnings penalty—caused by the many interruptions over the span of a woman’s career to provide unpaid at-home care for children, elderly parents or ill family members— results in vastly decreased Social Security income for women, thus increasing women’s poverty rates later in life at a rate of 11.7% vs. 7.4% for elderly men.

Possible Policy Solutions to Improve Women’s Economic Position

Some possible policy solutions are put forward in this report as well, including:

  • “Stronger protections against wage discrimination;”
  • “Health reform;”
  • “Work-family policies” (including the right to request a flexible schedule and mandatory paid sick leave);
  • Financial regulatory reform and the “establishment of Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion at each federal financial services agency;”
  • “Value the Care Economy”, which, according to the authors, refers to boosting investment in quality early education  and child care programs, such as Early Head Start and Head Start; and
  •  Differentiating the impact of tax and entitlement reforms on women versus on men.

Part II: Compendium of JEC Reports and Hearings from the 111th Congress

The second part of the publication compiles various reports and hearings held by the Joint Economic Committee that referred to women’s issues covering four areas: Women in the Economy Today, Equal Pay, Access to Benefits and Retirement Security.

It is chock full of charts, tables, graphs and quotable quotes.

HOW DO I OBTAIN “Invest in Women, Invest in America: A Comprehensive Review of Women in the U.S. Economy”?

  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (Bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Society through a Comic Lens

February 7, 2012

By Guest Blogger, Marianne Mason, Federal Information Librarian, Research and Library Instruction at The University of Iowa Libraries

Comic books are not really books and often not comic, but are serialized graphics-based stories expressed through political and cultural rhetoric.  Think Maus, a story of the Holocaust.  Think Peanuts’ ethics and theology.

O.K., not all comic books or graphic novels are Pulitzer Prize winners or speak to a deep sense of ethics.  The pure entertainment value of storytelling through sequential art can be worthy on its own merits.  However, the comics can inform, persuade, and encourage new behaviors in readers.  This is the purpose of comic books authored by U.S. government agencies.

Used as social program marketing tools for decades, the government-authored comic book format has been used to promote program benefits (Social Security Administration) and to educate (Consumer Product Safety Commission) using superhero/anti-hero models like Sprocket Man (reviewed in our April 9, 2010, blog post “Just for Fun: Sprocket Man!” ) and El Gato to capture the attention of the targeted audience and cross educational boundaries.

The Army made instruction manuals measurably more appealing to combat personnel in PS Magazine by incorporating sexual innuendo in both dialog and character illustration such as in this Preventive Maintenance manual shown below:

In October 2011 the University of Iowa hosted a scholarly symposium entitled “Comics, Creativity, and Culture: International and Interdisciplinary Perspectives”, a by-invitation-only event for scholars, artists and creators of the art and literature of comic books.  The Symposium spawned a semester-long series of complementary university sponsored events ranging from art exhibits, radio broadcasts, discussions, and interactive workshops for educators and K-12 students.  The University of Iowa Libraries contributed to the celebration by creating a Comic Book Café based on the Japanese “Manga Café” model.  Several specialized library collections, including Government Information, pooled their best examples for the café.

As the U.S. Government Information Librarian, I found that this event gave me an opportunity to draw attention to the characteristics and range of government authored comic books.  Creating a government comics research guide  gave me an opportunity to do a thorough survey of the collection,  access the content of the print collection and provide links to digitized collections from the broader government information community, including this latest online booklet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preparedness 101: A Zombie Pandemic”.

In addition, the research guide provides database access to many Congressional hearings and reports in the UI collection from the 1950’s linking juvenile delinquency to explicit violence in comic books.

Whether quirky or more profound, all reflect changing societal norms that drive public policy initiatives.

On October 4th an “egg timer” book talk called Thought Balloons: Talking about Comics”, was held in the Café for creators and readers of comics to share insights and stories about connections to comic book literature.  One reader commented that when she and her boyfriend merged their comic book collections, she knew their love was here to stay!

Note regarding Images:

Images in order of mention: Sprocket Man, The 9 Lives of El Gato, PS Magazine, Comic Book Café, Zombie Pandemic (“broader gov. community”), Comic books and juvenile delinquency.  Serial Set 11815-1 (S. Rpt. 62, 84 Cong., 1st Session) 1955, Thought Balloons. Source: University of Iowa Libraries.

About our Guest Blogger:

Marianne Mason has worked with Government and legal resources in several law libraries and universities and at University of Iowa Libraries since 2001 as the regional librarian for the State of Iowa.  Her idea of a fine vacation involves clear water, forests, and the absence of machinery/technology noise.  She knows how to knit socks, two-at-a-time, toe up.

More resources about Government-created comics:

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