Covered California – California’s Health Insurance Marketplace
One of the important parts of the Affordable Care Act are new, state-run, competitive health insurance ‘marketplaces’ (also known as ‘exchanges’) where individuals and small businesses (defined by Blue Shield generally as companies with less than 50 employees) will be able to purchase affordable private health insurance for 2014. California’s health insurance marketplace is known as Covered California.
In addition to buying coverage through Covered California, individuals and small businesses can also purchase health insurance the way they do today from brokers and directly through health insurance carriers.
Covered California for Small Businesses
Covered California will also host a marketplace specifically designed for small businesses known as the ‘Small Business Health Options Program’ (SHOP). SHOP will make it easier to compare a variety of qualified, competing health plans from private insurance companies. In addition, employers will also have the opportunity to offer employees a full range of quality health insurance options.
According to the ACA, ‘Small Business’ is officially defined as a company with 1-100 employees. However, the states have been given until January 1, 2016 to change the size of their Small Business market to 1-100 employees. Blue Shield currently defines ‘Small Business’ as 1-50 employees and will make the change to 1-100 employees by 2016.
Open Enrollment for Small Businesses
Small Business employers will have an annual election period prior to the group’s annual open enrollment period. For 2014, open enrollment for small groups will begin on October 1, 2013. After that date, employers can begin participating at any time in the year (rolling enrollment), but employees can only enroll or change plans once a year, unless they qualify for a special enrollment period.
Go to Covered California's site to learn more.
Learn more about Health Insurance Marketplaces on Healthcare.gov.
How will Blue Shield participate?
Blue Shield intends to offer plans inside of Covered California. Once we have received qualification from the state later this year, you will be able to purchase new plans from Blue Shield through the new marketplace, as well as through traditional methods, starting on October 1st for a January 1, 2014 effective date.