Diversity and Inclusion: World AIDS Day 2012

“We ALL are living with AIDS…”

This sentiment shared by award winning actress Judith Light has always been my introduction to the topic of HIV/AIDS.  To many, it may seem that AIDS is a distant disease, impacting people very different than you and in places far, far away.  Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS is still here.  We all are, in fact, living with this disease.

The mission of Word AIDS Day 2012 is “Getting to Zero.”  We are making progress, but HIV/AIDS is still a critical health crises AND relevant to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.  It’s highly likely that a family member, friend or workplace colleague regardless of gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity, is infected with HIV and possibly living with AIDS.

My work with HIV/AIDS began with the AIDS Walk, The AIDS Ride, and as the employee educator of the Viacom/MVT Networks “Know HIV/AIDS” campaign. Working with partners across the cable, healthcare, and non-profit industries I had the privilege to work with many celebrity AIDS ambassadors including Common and Ashley Judd.

YOU  too can make a difference.  It’s  been my work in the community that has made the biggest impact on my life and and on others.  All of us, through our personal actions and collaboration can make an impact:  by knowing the facts, acting in support of those living with HIV/AIDS, and volunteering your time and helping to educate others.

Those most at risk are, in fact, the core of our workforce:  young people under the age of  24.  Diversity and inclusion is not just about gender, race, veteran status, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or economic status.  It also includes compassion and support related to personal health, including HIV/AIDS.

Please join me in remembering those lost to this disease.  Work with me and others to support those living with HIV/AIDS, and working to prevent new HIV infections.

After all, we all are living with AIDS.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:  http://aids.gov/index.htm

Until next time:  connect, collaborate and create.

The Connector,

Ryan

KNOW THE FACTS ABOUT HIV/AIDS:

In 2011:

  • 34 million [31.4 million – 35.9 million] people globally were living with HIV
  • 2.5 million [2.2 million – 2.8 million] people became newly infected with HIV
  • 1.7 million [1.5 million – 1.9 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses
  • There are approximately 3-4 million AIDS “orphans” living in Africa – both parents lost to AIDS

-Declining new HIV infections in children:  The area where perhaps most progress is being made is in reducing new HIV infections in children. Half of the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among newborn children.

-Fewer AIDS-related deaths:  Anti-retroviral therapy has emerged as a powerful force for saving lives. In the last 24 months the number of people accessing treatment has increased by 63% globally.

-More investments:  Countries are increasing investments in the AIDS response despite a difficult economic climate. The global gap in resources needed annually by 2015 is now at 30%. In 2011, US$ 16.8 billion was available and the need for 2015 is between US$ 22-24 billion.

World AIDS Day 2012

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The Affordable Health Care Act: Issues For Business Owners, HR Leaders and Employees

I know all Americans are concerned about healthcare costs and coverage -regardless of who you voted for in this election.

I’ve heard many people, understandably upset, talk about their insurance costs going up – particularly small business owners.  While not everything about the Affordable Healthcare Act is perfect and quite frankly, not easy to easy to navigate, the system is improving.  The Healthcare Act not only provides access to more than 30 million Americans, eliminates discrimination based on pre-existing coverage, and provide many options, including tax cuts for small businesses, to pay for this change in coverage.

So, why am I discussing this topic?  First, healthcare insurance and the well being of our employees is all of our business and, in fact, we do need to understand the implications of  changes in healthcare requirements whether we are a large multi-billion dollar business or a small business employing 2-50 people.  Second, it’s personal.  I’ve had and beaten cancer; I continue to require preventive care; I have been denied coverage because of existing conditions; and I work for myself and have had to navigate through insurance requirements and regulations in order to find the most cost effective premium that provides the maximum amount of coverage for my personal situation.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1.  INVESTIGATE GROUP PLANS FROM INDIVIDUAL INSURERS

The first route small business owners can investigate is the various options provided by individual carriers.  Many, such as AETNA, do have small business insurance plans – often a group of companies who have purchased into a larger plan that makes it more cost effective.  AETNA , at one time, was my insurance provider.  While they mostly cater to larger businesses, they also have cost effective plans for small businesses.  I’ve provided two links (there’s a lot more out there…so look around) below.

AETNA Small Business Health Insurance

Link:  http://www.aetna.com/employer-plans/small-business/small.html

Mutual Of Omaha Small Business Health Insurance

Link:  http://www.mutualofomaha.com/am/nsba/

2.  BUY INTO GROUP PLANS

One of your best options is to look into group health insurance. Group plans use the power of numbers to help keep costs contained. If you purchase health coverage for your employees, you can get group rates, which can be lower than individual rates. It is also possible for the self-employed to take advantage of group rates. Many online aggregators allow families, individuals and the self-employed to find insurance plans as part of a group. When you are added to the group, you have access to these lower rates.

The same concept is true of group health plans for small businesses. If you want to provide this benefit to your employees, you can usually find group rates that will make it a little more affordable for you to provide benefits to your employees and most employees are willing to pay part of that cost if you choose to balance it with employee contributions.

Buying Health Insurance For Your Small Business – What You Should Know

Link:  http://www.goodfinancialcents.com/health-insurance-plans-for-small-business/

Health Insurance For Small Businesses

Link:  http://www.ehealthinsurance.com/ehi/family1?allid=Lin27968&sid=PPkX79_c.b0-2oZA8mkTcmxk2i2RIqoImg

3.  PARTICIPATE IN INSURANCE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS

Insurance exchanges will be state-based health insurance plans offered to Americans without health insurance. These insurance plans give consumers without health insurance access to affordable insurance plans.

These health insurance plans offer individuals without insurance an alternative to regular health insurance plans in the State that a person or his family lives. Individuals can compare the State insurance exchange plans with other health insurance plans in the marketplace. If a person without health insurance can’t afford insurance and purchase it through the State exchanges, a tax credit will be given to assist in the purchase.

A second feature of the state insurance exchanges indicates that small business employees will also be helped by being able to shop and purchase health coverage under exchanges. In addition, businesses with less than 25 employees may be able to get tax credits up to 50 percent of their cost to offset the price of the health insurance. Currently, small businesses may only qualify for tax credits up to 35 percent.

More about these exchanges is highlighted in the link below:

Insurance Exchanges:  http://www.examiner.com/article/what-are-insurance-exchanges-the-obamacare-affordable-care-act

4.  UNDERSTAND THE TAX CODE RELATED TO SMALL BUSINESSES AND HEALTHCARE

The tax code, under the Affordable Healthcare Act, is changing the tax code for small businesses – and that’s a good thing!

Small businesses can benefit from offering health plans to their employees. If you are a small business paying for at least half of your employees’ health insurance, you may be eligible for a tax break. If you are a business with 10 employees or less, who earn average wages of $25,000 annually, and phasing out as companies approach 25 employees and an average salary of $50,000 a year.

Until 2013, you can receive a tax credit of up to 35% of what your business spends on health insurance. In 2014, the maximum credit for small businesses will increase to 50% of what you pay for insurance premiums. Of course, there are tax deductions available for what you pay in insurance premiums as someone who is self-employed.

You might also want to look into the options for state tax benefits. Check your state tax code for information about what tax breaks are available, as well as the requirements for qualifying. You should also consider speaking with a trusted tax professional, who can help you find out what advantages you have when offering health coverage to your employees.

There’s a lot you can do to ensure that you, your family and your employees have access to the care they need.  Like most things…your key to success is research.

Until next time:  Connect, Collaborate and Create Together

The Connector – Ryan