Small-biz health plans unveiled

small business owner image from Covered California plansSmall businesses aren’t required to provide health insurance to workers in 2014, but they might want to after checking out the rates, plans and subsidies offered by Covered California.

The state’s health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act unveiled its slate of insurers and rates for the small-group market. California’s individual insurance plans under Obamacare were detailed in late May.

All of the health insurance providers participating in the small-business exchange also are included in the individual plan lineup, but not all insurers offering individual coverage are issuing business plans.

Providers include big leaguers Blue Shield, Health Net and Kaiser Permanente. View the small-business health insurance plans (PDF). (California’s insurance commissioner had recommended that Anthem Blue Cross be excluded from the state’s new marketplace for small-business health coverage, and the company was not included.)

The insurance marketplace told businesses that its Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) “will offer expanded choices, online tools for convenient shopping and enrollment, and streamlined invoicing.” In many cases, premiums will be lower than those offered in the open marketplace in 2013.

Covered California logoCovered California’s SHOP will administer enrollment, eligibility, billing and premium collection, a suite of services expected to draw in businesses that hadn’t provided health insurance in the past due to administrative hassles.

“Federal tax credits only available to small businesses in SHOP can make it even more affordable for some businesses with fewer than 25 full-time-equivalent employees to offer coverage to their workers,” Covered California said in announcing the plans Aug. 1. They “may qualify for federal tax credits of up to 50 percent of the premium cost.”

“Covered California is offering plans that will encourage thousands of employers to participate, ultimately increasing the number of insured Californians, which is the mission of the landmark federal law,” Covered California chief Peter Lee said. The “launch of a full-choice small-group market is a testament to the state’s commitment to build on the critical role of employer-based coverage,” he said.

Individuals are required to have health insurance come Jan. 1, 2014, but that’s not the case for businesses big or small. The requirement for businesses were delayed by two decisions at the federal level. Workers will be responsible for finding coverage in any case, or face federal fines.

Small-business owners may enroll in the SHOP plans when the health exchange opens Oct. 1. The plans are open to those employing 50 or fewer eligible employees. There will be no plans for large business in 2014.

Plans are grouped into the now-familiar “metal levels” used for individual plans: platinum, gold, silver and bronze. “Average premiums for a 40-year-old employee are slated to fall 17% in southern Los Angeles County and 13% in the northern part,” the L.A. Times reported.

These are the health plan providers participating in SHOP for 2014:

  • Blue Shield of California
  • Chinese Community Health Plan
  • Health Net
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Sharp Health Plan
  • Western Health Advantage

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