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    California's Small Business Health Insurance Exchange Off To Slow Start


    The problems may seem to echo those that surfaced during infamous launch of the individual marketplaces around the country, which was characterized by technical failures and intermittent shutdowns. But at least in the case of Covered California, officials were able to continue enrolling consumers online and the problems were fixed within a few months, Weinberg said. The more complicated business exchange, on the other hand, had much more significant problems that required starting from scratch, he said.

    Covered California spokeswoman Anne Gonzales said the exchange has been “challenged by some complex system issues.”

    “Understandably, Covered California was focusing a lot of time and resources on getting our individual market up and running,” she said. Now that the individual market has closed, she said, “SHOP is going to be a primary focus.”

    In addition to technical improvements, she said the exchange is working with brokers to complete applications that were filed with missing information.

    Businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees are not required to offer insurance under the law. But by purchasing plans through the exchange, they can give their workers a choice of plans – which most have been unable to do in the past.

    There are also tax credits available for businesses with fewer than 25 employees who are paid on average less than $50,000. Businesses with 10 or fewer employees are eligible for the highest credits. The tax credit – only available through the exchange – can be received for two years.

    Allen Phillips, who owns Del Mar Automotive with his son, said he signed up for the SHOP so he could receive about $4,000 in tax credits. He applied in January but by mid-April, he was still waiting for insurance cards for the staff. “It’s absolutely making me crazy,” he said.

    Phillips said that for several years, the company has offered insurance to its employees, a move that has helped it to keep good technicians. He is switching from an Aetna plan and instead giving his employees a choice under Covered California between Kaiser Permanente and Sharp Health Plan.

    Mon, May 05 2014

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