Magic Johnson Teams with Aetna

Alliance to help diverse urban communities with healthcare issues

Earvin “Magic” Johnson is at it again. The former National Basketball Association star turned entrepreneur has taken on yet another community development venture: tackling the healthcare issues that plague urban America. Magic Johnson Enterprises has joined forces with Aetna, one of the country’s leading healthcare companies, to improve healthcare in the country’s urban neighborhoods.

The alliance, which was announced yesterday at a news conference held at the Magic Johnson Theatre in Harlem, aspires to improve healthcare literacy and wellness and combat racial and ethnic inequality in healthcare through intensive community outreach programs. “We’ve got to go to the people instead of making them come to us,” says Johnson.

Considering the combined efforts of Johnson’s impressive philanthropic record and Aetna’s extensive experience in the healthcare provider industry, Aetna Chairman and CEO Ronald A. Williams expressed his confidence in the impact this relationship will have in addressing the needs of those with inadequate access to quality healthcare.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to bring two strong brands together,” says Williams, who described Johnson as someone who could “help amplify our voice in this community” while demonstrating to others that there are opportunities to serve in urban communities. Leading by example, Aetna has already established the New York City Community Plan that seeks to make healthcare provision more affordable for employers while lowering out-of-pocket costs for individuals.

Currently more than 50% of small-business employers doubt their ability to offer health insurance to their employees, according to Aetna’s president of small group business, in the northeast region, Kate Begley. The MJE and Aetna collaboration intends to aid the millions of employees who, for the most part, represent diverse communities and are unable to obtain insurance through their employers but who also fail to qualify for the state subsidized plan.

“There’s an opportunity to focus on health literacy, to help people understand how to use their benefits if they have [them],” Williams says. He also stresses the importance of individual responsibility for one’s health: “They also have to understand their role in being compliant with doctor’s orders and all the other things we can do as individuals to take better care of ourselves.”

With New York City’s healthcare costs being one of the highest in the country, it isn’t surprising that the health initiative has received the endorsement of New York politicos Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; Commissioner Robert W. Walsh at the New York City Department of Small Business Services; and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose office has offered its assistance to the joint venture.

It is expected that MJE’s commitment to ethnically diverse urban neighborhoods in conjunction with Aetna’s experience will empower businesses and communities to become more conscious of healthcare choices and provisions.

MJE’s portfolio of companies previously formed strategic partnerships with corporations including Starbucks, AMC Entertainment Inc., and T.G.I. Friday’s. Of the enterprise’s newest partner in its quest to improve urban life Johnson says, “We need a machine like the Aetna machine to get out here and spread the word in

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