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UAlbany Helps Capital Region Community Navigate Affordable Care Act

ALBANY, N.Y. (December 2, 2013) -- The University at Albany is playing an integral role in helping small businesses, underserved communities, and individuals navigate the intricacies of the Affordable Care Act. UAlbany staff, students, and faculty are providing critical training, enrolling individuals and families, and hosting educational forums for regional non-profit organizations and the community-at-large. The goal is to help ensure a smooth transition as Capital Region businesses, individuals, and families sign up for health plans created through the landmark legislation.

UAlbany School of Social Welfare Navigators
UAlbany MSW students and navigators from left, Sarah Howes, Kevin O’Keeffe, Katie Merrill, Kathy Dor, Dean Katharine Briar-Lawson, seated from left, Rhea Kumar, Melissa McGreal, Samantha Ahlfeld. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

The health insurance exchange program serves as the centerpiece to the ACA, under which U.S. states can set up health insurance exchanges, or marketplaces, where individuals and small businesses can shop for and obtain health coverage. NY State of Health, the official health plan marketplace for New York State, began enrolling consumers and small employers in new coverage options on October 1, 2013, with health coverage starting on January 1, 2014.

Training Small Businesses

UAlbany’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is offering training to help small businesses with health care and health insurance problems. The new program, funded through a subcontract with the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), educates business owners about the federal health reform bill and helps them address their current insurance coverage needs.

The Small Business Development Center, based at UAlbany’s School of Business, is working with small business owners throughout the Capital Region to navigate the health law, particularly through changes set to take effect in 2014. Other elements of the law set to take effect in 2014 include individual responsibility requirements, tax credits for those who qualify for purchasing health insurance, no discrimination protections for anyone with a pre-existing condition, and the elimination of annual limits.

To help ensure that NY State of Health best meets the needs of New York’s employers and employees, CSS launched the Small Business Assistance Program (SBAP) to educate small businesses about the health reform law, address insurance issues, and help inform the design and development of the Exchange.

Enrolling the Underserved

In addition, UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare (SSW) is partnering with CSS to help guide individuals, families and businesses with enrollment in a health plan through the NY State of Health marketplace.

Through the ‘navigator’ program, SSW graduate students serve as frontline support to help Capital Region community members navigate the health exchange enrollment process. The School of Social Welfare is the only such school of its type in New York currently contracted as a navigator program.

CSS has been awarded a grant by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to provide in-person assistance and navigators at over 250 sites in 61 counties statewide. The School of Social Welfare, a subcontractor to CSS, helps individuals and small employers in the Capital Region, Columbia and Greene counties, understand coverage options offered through NY State of Health, as well as determine their eligibility for financial assistance, tax credits, and Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance.

"I applaud the SBDC and the School of Social Welfare for supporting and engaging the Capital Region community during this time of transition," said UAlbany President Robert J. Jones. "We are pleased to partner with the Community Service Society to assist individuals, families and small businesses in navigating and adopting the ACA."

For information regarding the Affordable Care Act or for enrollment assistance, community members can contact the School of Social Welfare Navigator program at (518) 442-3854, or via email at

Educating the Community

In an effort to further educate the community-at-large, UAlbany Schools of Public Health and Social Welfare and Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy hosted a seminar on The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Nonprofit Community on November 15th. Among the highlights was the keynote conversation regarding the historic changes in healthcare between Donna Frescatore, Executive Director, NY State of Health and Dr. Rachel Wheeler, Vice Chief, Cambridge Health Alliance Department of Family Medicine; Somerville, Mass. The conversation was moderated by Benita Zahn of NewsChannel 13.

The event is part of an ongoing series of seminars designed to address emerging issues and concerns in the local non-profit community. It is an interdisciplinary collaboration to share knowledge and expertise, identify issues requiring further research and education and coordinate the development and dissemination of knowledge through community-based research, education, and service initiatives.

In addition, the School of Public Health hosted renowned health care economist Uwe E. Reinhardt, Ph.D., on Tuesday, Nov. 19, for “Health Care in the 21st Century: A Community Call to Action.” Reinhardt discussed health care reform and the cost of care locally and nationally. Area panelists included Paula Stopera, president and CEO, CAP COM Federal Credit Union; Dennis Whalen, president, Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS); and Dr. John D. Bennett, president and CEO, CDPHP.

The event is the second in a series of presentations designed to address the issues of quality, cost, and access to health care in our communities. The first event, held earlier this year, featured Dr. Atul Gawande.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.