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UAlbany Social Welfare Students Help the Underserved Navigate Affordable Care Act Enrollment Process

University at Albany graduate student Madeline Knopfler is well versed in the challenges confronting individuals who are in need of health insurance, or are seeking to provide health care coverage for their families.

UAlbany School of Social Welfare student and 'navigator' Madeline Knopfler
UAlbany School of Social Welfare student Madeline Knopfler works in the community to help individuals navigate the health insurance marketplace.

As a 'navigator,' Knopfler, who is a candidate for a Master's of Social Work is on the front lines educating community members on how the changes to the health care system resulting from the rollout of the Affordable Care Act affect them. More importantly, she is working with the underserved, helping them complete the enrollment process for the NY State of Health, the state’s official health plan marketplace.

The Great Neck, N.Y. native received this opportunity through UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare (SSW), who is partnering with the Community Service Society of New York (CSS) to help guide individuals, families and businesses with enrollment in a health plan through the NY State of Health system. NY State of Health is a health insurance marketplace where consumers and businesses can shop for insurance, compare prices and benefits, and enroll into health coverage under the landmark Affordable Care Act legislation.

Knopfler is one of nine UAlbany graduate students who are serving as a 'navigator,' funded through 5-year grant from CSS. Through the ‘navigator’ program, SSW graduate students serve as frontline support to help Capital Region community members navigate the health exchange enrollment process. Students who have been accepted into the program receive a stipend. The School of Social Welfare is the only such school of its type in New York currently contracted as a navigator program.

It's the nature of Knopfler's educational background, as well as that of her eight fellow graduate students, that makes her participation in the program distinctive. "I think the nine of us are unique within our particular program because we bring the sensitivity and compassion of a social worker to the job," said Knopfler, who also received her undergraduate degree in communication from UAlbany.

Knopfler added that she and her colleagues are also gaining essential training and experience, as well as an increased understanding of the health policy changes associated with the Affordable Care Act, an additional benefit resulting from the School of Social Welfare's participation in the 'navigator' program.

"As navigators we have been on the front lines of these challenges and though it hasn’t been easy, it’s been an invaluable learning opportunity," said Knopfler.

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