At the beginning of this month, Covered California announced the carriers that will be participating in the SHOP exchange. This is the small business part of Covered California, where small businesses can go to purchase health insurance. The 6 carriers are Health Net, Kaiser, Blue Shield, Chinese Community Health Plan, Sharp Health Plan, and Western Health Advantage. Carriers such as Chinese Community, Sharp and Western Health are regional carriers and only available in the region they serve. The others will cover the entire State of California. We were able to see some sample plans and there premiums. They pricing seems to be very competitive with off exchange plans.
One of the main benefits of a small business purchasing a insurance plan on SHOP is they may qualify for a tax credit. Employers with 25 or fewer employees and there average salary is less than $50,000 may qualify for a tax credit. This tax credit is only available through SHOP. We also learned that the only way to purchase insurance through SHOP is by using a licensed and certified agent. This means that the agent need to have a health insurance license issued by the state of California and take a certification class sponsored by Covered California in order to sell through SHOP. More details on plans should be available in the next month or so.