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If you’re looking for a way to help you increase your employee retention and make your employees happier – without driving up your costs – you should know about voluntary benefits. They are an easy way for your business to expand your insurance coverage options for employees. And the cost is paid entirely by those employees who participate.

For employers currently offering Medical coverage through CaliforniaChoice, it’s easy to add voluntary Dental and Vision coverage.


Voluntary Dental

The SmileSaver Dental 3000 HMO is available as a voluntary option with no minimum employee participation. It includes benefits for the following, with a co-pay for some services:


Voluntary Vision

Two Voluntary Vision programs are also available – from EyeMed and VSP. Both offer in- and out-of-network benefits, as shown below:

Service EyeMed® VSP®
  In Network Out of Network In Network Out of Network
Eye Examinations $10 co-pay
(1 per 12 months)

Up to $20 reimbursement $10 co-pay
(1 per 12 months)

Up to $45 reimbursement
Frames Covered in full up to $100 retail value
(1 per 12 months)

Up to $30 reimbursement, up to $100 retail value
(1 per 12 months)

Covered in full up to $180 retail value
(1 per 12 months)

Up to $70 reimbursement
Lenses Co-pay of $10 to $75 depending on type of lenses
(1 per 12 months)

Up to $40 reimbursement depending on type of lenses Co-pay of $10 to $55 depending on type of lenses
(1 per 12 months)

Up to $65 reimbursement depending on type of lenses
Contact Lenses $10 co-pay; one purchase per 12 months in lieu of frames and lenses; up to $100 retail value; additional coverage for fitting is based on lens type $50 reimbursement; one purchase per 12 months in lieu of frames and lenses; up to $100 retail value; $40 reimbursement for contact lens fitting $10 co-pay; one purchase per 12 months in lieu of frames and lenses; up to $180 retail value; lens fitting covered in full after member cost of up to $60 Up to $150 reimbursement; one purchase per 12 months in lieu of frames and lenses; 15% discount on contact lens fitting

Because the coverage is voluntary, you don’t have to worry about increasing your employee benefits budget. There’s no cost to you because your employees are paying the total premium.


Employer-sponsored Options

If you would like to contribute to the costs of your employees’ additional benefits (or pay the total costs), you can expand your employee insurance options even more – giving them a choice of Dental, Vision, Chiropractic & Acupuncture, and Life Insurance. You can even “mix and match” employer-sponsored and voluntary coverage for your employees. Your broker can supply you with all of the details.



There are five employer-sponsored options for Dental coverage:


The SmileSaver Dental 1000 HMO includes:


The Ameritas PPO plans all include:

Orthodontia is available on the PPO 3500, 4000, and 5000 plans with a $1,000 lifetime maximum.



The employer-sponsored Landmark Healthplan Chiropractic or Chiropractic and Acupuncture plans are available for a low monthly fee and include the following benefits:

Enrolled members have access to Landmark’s fully credentialed network of chiropractors and acupuncturists across California.



Employer-sponsored Life Insurance from Assurity Life Insurance Company gives your employees access to affordable Life Insurance and Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D) benefits – plus a Conversion Privilege if they leave your employment in the future.

Coverage amounts start at a minimum of $10,000 during the initial enrollment period. (Reduced amounts are available after the initial enrollment.) Your group’s Guaranteed Issue Maximum is based on your total group size, as shown below:

Employee Participation Guaranteed Issue Maximum at Initial Enrollment
1-10 $25,000
11-25 $50,000
26-50 $75,000
51-100 $100,000

Through the Living Benefits Provision, an early partial payout of the Life Insurance amount is available if you’re diagnosed with a future terminal illness.


Talk With Your Broker About Your Benefits

CaliforniaChoice gives employers like you the ability to easily expand your employee benefits program, and still control your costs. CaliforniaChoice can help you attract new employees, boost employee morale, and reduce turnover – because employees are happier when they have the ability to choose insurance that best fits their specific individual or family health care needs.

Talk with your broker about adding voluntary or employer-sponsored benefits to your employee benefits program. You can add these benefits to your program at any time. You don’t have to wait until your next Medical plan open enrollment.

If you don’t already have a broker, we can help you find a CaliforniaChoice broker to speak with about a quote for coverage for your employees.


The CaliforniaChoice multi-carrier private exchange offers small businesses and their employees a diverse roster of health insurance plans from seven of California’s leading insurers: Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, Sharp Health Plan, Sutter Health Plus, UnitedHealthcare, and Western Health Advantage.

But it doesn’t stop there. CaliforniaChoice also includes a host of additional products and resources at no additional cost to your business!


Discover All You Can Get

Depending on your company size, the CaliforniaChoice Business Solutions Suite offers you and your employees access to a range of free products and services.

Business Solutions Suite



Discount Dental Discount Dental Discount Dental
Discount Vision Discount Vision Discount Vision
Discount Hearing Program Discount Hearing Program Discount Hearing Program
Premium Only Plan* Premium Only Plan* Premium Only Plan*
Online HRAnswerLink Online HRAnswerLink Online HRAnswerLink
Cal Perks Employee Discount Program Cal Perks Employee Discount Program Cal Perks Employee Discount Program
Member Value Program Health & Wellness Discounts Member Value Program Health & Wellness Discounts Member Value Program Health & Wellness Discounts
Prescription Discount Card Prescription Discount Card Prescription Discount Card
HSA Resource Center HSA Resource Center HSA Resource Center
Cal-COBRA Billing Cal-COBRA Billing Flexible Spending Account
  Flexible Spending Account Federal COBRA Billing

*Available beginning January 1, 2018 | **Covers initial set-up fee; charge applies after first year.


Discounted Services + Discounts

The discounted Dental, Vision, and Hearing Program services alone can really help your employees save. But there are also added discounts on entertainment and prescriptions, too.


HR Support + Employee Services

Your business also benefits with free access to an online HR support center from HRAnswerLink, a free Flexible Spending Account for your employees (allowing them to set aside funds on a pre-tax basis for eligible medical expenses), free Cal-COBRA or federal COBRA billing services for employees maintaining coverage after leaving your employment), no set-up fee on a Premium Only Plan (allowing employees to pay insurance premiums pre-tax), and a no-cost Health Savings Account (HSA) Resource Center.


Nowhere but CaliforniaChoice

The Business Solutions Suite was developed specifically for California small businesses with up to 100 employees, and it is offered exclusively to CaliforniaChoice customers. It is the only program in the state that offers access to seven different health insurers and dozens of health plans, so each of your employees can easily find coverage to match his or her individual or family health care needs. It delivers cost control for your business – year after year, the convenience of one bill for all of your employees’ coverage, and outstanding value-added benefits.


Talk With Your Broker

To learn more about how the CaliforniaChoice Business Solutions Suite can help attract and retain employees – while also offering no-cost benefits for your business and employees – contact your broker. If you don’t already have an employee benefits broker, we can help you find a CaliforniaChoice broker to speak with about getting coverage for your employees.


You may not realize it, but you can use Halloween as a way to build morale and nurture teamwork at your office. It’s a wonderful creative outlet (especially for employees whose jobs may be more serious – like accounting, engineering, or IT folks). It can also give employees who don’t have a lot of opportunity to work together the chance to get to know one another as they work toward a common goal.



There are many ways you can celebrate Halloween. Pick the one that best fits your company, culture, and work environment.



You can allow employees several days to decorate or have them start on the day of your celebration. (Halloween is on a weekday this year, so it’s likely you’ll have a full staff, unless some of your employees are taking a portion or all of the day off for a child’s costume competition at school.) If you’re having a department competition, any number of themes could come into play: a graveyard, haunted house, or something based on a recent movie. You could even award a prize for the best decorating (by department or across your entire organization).



You can do this during lunch time – in a cafeteria, lunch room, or large conference space (if there’s one available). Decorations can be put up by volunteers or your facilities group, if you have one. The event can be as expensive as your budget permits. The choice is yours.



If you hold a costume contest, it’s a good idea to establish and publicize rules for your competition, including costume categories (see ideas below). You certainly want to avoid costumes that would embarrass anyone or be too provocative. The idea is to be engaging and encourage creativity, without exceeding standards for good taste at the workplace.

You can have different competitions for individuals and groups, awarding prizes for most original/creative, scariest, worst, and best. You may be surprised some of your employees who seem shy may want to show off hidden talents when behind a mask or costume.



You can ask competitors to carve their pumpkins off-site and bring them to work ready for judging, or you can have employees compete on site and raise the stakes by limiting the window in which they have to do the carving.

If your competition carving takes place on site, be sure you supply all of the tools needed – and a de-seeding station. If everyone guts their pumpkins in the same place before taking them to a “carving table,” then you can limit the mess. Aprons can be useful, too.

A decorating table – with paint, glitter, feathers, and related accoutrements – gives everyone an equal chance to win. Or, save all of the mess, by limiting your pumpkin contest to jack o’ lanterns decorated with a Sharpie.



It’s not a party without food and beverage. Keep your employees happy – and fueled up for their competition – with theme-appropriate cupcakes, caramel or candied apples, cobweb cookies, and the like accompanied by hot chocolate, witch’s brew or sparkling apple punch, and spiced (not spiked) cider.



Don’t wait. If you want your employees to be enthusiastic about an inter-departmental or inter-office competition, it’s important you give them time to prepare, plan their costumes, and work on their pumpkin carving. Some organizations with a serious commitment to All Hallows’ Eve started planning in August. Whatever you do, have fun!


You want to offer health benefits for your employees, but you may find the idea of researching your available options, making a decision that works for all of your employees, and figuring out how health insurance fits into your company’s budget all a little scary.

It doesn’t have to be. In fact, when you work with a CaliforniaChoice broker, shopping for and enrolling in employee benefits is easy.


Advantages for Your Business

There are several benefits to offering health insurance coverage to your employees, including:

Tax deduction: You can deduct the cost of your employees’ health insurance as a routine business expense. If your business is incorporated and you’re the business owner, your insurance costs are deductible, too.

Employee retention: A good employee benefits program helps you attract and retain quality employees. In fact, employees may consider accepting better benefits as an alternative to higher pay, which could reduce your overall business expenses. Offering employee benefits has been shown to improve employee health (by improving their access to health care) and decrease absenteeism.

Employee happiness: Employees appreciate it when you offer benefits – and they’ll be even more appreciative when they realize they can play a role in their own health coverage decisions. Getting their benefits through work may also be less expensive for them, as compared to looking for and securing insurance on their own.


Researching Potential Costs

Talk with your employee benefits broker about how CaliforniaChoice can help you offer benefits, while still controlling your costs. The CaliforniaChoice multi-carrier, employee-choice health insurance exchange gives you the ability to set the amount you want to spend on health benefits for your employees each year.

You can choose either a fixed dollar amount or fixed percentage – for example, 50% of the lowest-cost health plan. Whatever amount you choose, it’s locked in for a year. That gives you complete control over what you spend on your employee benefits.

If an employee selects a health plan that costs more than your contribution, he or she simply pays the difference. At renewal, you have the option to adjust your contribution amount – up or down – which gives you control over your budget for another year.


Increased Employee Choice

One of the most attractive aspects of the CaliforniaChoice program is that it offers you and your employees greater access to doctors, specialists, and hospitals – with health coverage from seven different health plans: Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, Sharp Health Plan, Sutter Health Plus, UnitedHealthcare, and Western Health Advantage.

One of your employees might choose a PPO from Anthem Blue Cross because it includes his or her doctor or a certain hospital in its network. Another employee who rarely visits the doctor might select an HMO plan from Kaiser Permanente. A third employee might select a Health Savings Account-compatible HMO plan from UnitedHealthcare because of its cost and tax advantages. Whatever your employees’ needs may be, it’s their Choice!

Offering your employees this level of Choice , without increasing your company’s cost (as compared to a single plan solution), gives you a recruiting advantage and a tool to increase employee retention as described above.


Complimentary Help

Contrary to what you might think, using a health insurance broker doesn’t cost you anything. In fact, using a broker could save you money. That’s because an experienced broker has the expertise and technology to help you find the most competitive benefits for your company, while ensuring you have access to the health care providers you and your employees want.

A broker can also help ensure you and your business stay up to date and in compliance with changing regulations in connection with health reform and the ACA. He or she will also help you get your group enrolled – whether you choose online or paper enrollment. (It’s your choice.) All you have to do is provide some basic information about your business and employees (and dependents, if they’re to be included).

Best of all, because a broker is paid a commission by the carriers for the products they sell, using one won’t cost you anything. And they’re available to assist you after the sale, too – to resolve claims-related issues, add coverage for a new employee, or whatever you need.


Get Started Now!

CaliforniaChoice makes it easy to shop and compare plans – whether you’re moving from a current health plan or considering employee benefits for the first time.

To learn more about how CaliforniaChoice can deliver more options for your employees, while still helping you control your costs, contact your employee benefits broker. If you don’t already have a broker, we can help you find one.

Thus far in 2017, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have been unsuccessful in reaching a deal with Democrats to overhaul the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Now, the Executive Branch is taking actions on its own to undercut the ACA.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order during the week of October 9th that will resurrect the concept of association health plans, enabling small businesses in the same state and the same line of business to band together to secure health coverage for their employees.

While the idea on its face sounds attractive because of the potential lure of lower costs, health reform experts say the move will likely erode the consumer safeguards of the ACA because the association plans will not have to provide the essential health benefits called for under health reform. Instead, they will only have to comply with the state guidelines where the plan is filed, not the more-restrictive guidelines that apply in some states.

Critics have suggested it will create a “race to the bottom” as health insurers file stripped-down plans in states with the fewest regulations when it comes to what’s covered. In turn, these less generous plans will likely draw healthier people out of the traditional health insurance market with lower prices, leaving full-featured Obamacare plans with sicker enrollees, which could further drive up premiums for those with pre-existing conditions.

The Wall Street Journal reported the executive order would also loosen rules on short-term health insurance coverage, which previously was offered as a temporary solution for those with a gap in their insurance – perhaps due to an interruption as a result of a job loss or a move to a new job (and a waiting period before new coverage begins).

Exempted from the ACA’s “essential health benefits” requirements, future association health policies could omit coverage for pre-existing health conditions, according to Kaiser Health News. These short-term plans, formerly restricted to 90 days or briefer periods, could be expanded to offer protection for up to 364 days, exposing insureds to greater out-of-pocket costs and reduced benefits.

Combined with the cutback in funding for advertising during the shortened ACA enrollment period for 2018 – and a reduction in assistance to help enroll those who need coverage – the new executive order could ease the path to future congressional action on repeal.

The ACA as it exists currently allows for insurers to sell plans across state lines; however, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, no insurance company has taken advantage of this opportunity. Fourteen states have considered interstate compacts that would allow cross-state insurance sales and three states (Georgia, Kentucky, and Maine) have passed laws allowing interstate sales.

Setting up provider networks that extend beyond state borders is pricey, time-consuming, and a potential large risk for insurers. Health insurers have traditionally opposed the idea of cross-border plan saying it will fragment and destabilize the small group market – driving up premiums for small businesses.

Former Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator Andy Slavvit called the latest proposal “synthetic repeal” that will likely “butcher the ACA” beyond recognition.

The White House action follows steps taken earlier in October to roll back the birth control mandate of the ACA. On October 6, 2017, the Trump administration moved to expand the rights of employers to deny insurance coverage for contraception to women on the basis of the employer’s religious liberty.

The new rules broaden the range of employers and insurers that can now invoke religious or moral beliefs to avoid complying with the ACA requirement that birth control pills and other contraceptives be covered by most insurance plans as part of the ACA’s preventive care benefits.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) said in an announcement that the birth control coverage change will impact only a small percentage of the 165 million women in the U.S.; however, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement, “With this rule in place, any employer could decide their employees no longer have health insurance coverage for birth control.”

Indeed, employers do not have to file anything with HHS or other agencies to stop offering birth control coverage. They simply have to send notice to employees of their decision.

The number of women who paid for contraceptives fell from around 21 percent in 2012 to less than four percent by 2014, according to the independent Kaiser Family Foundation. Fifty-five million women were covered by policies that provided no-cost contraceptives in 2015.

The proposed new relief from federal ACA compliance will not exempt employers from complying with state-mandated requirements. Eight states have laws requiring no-cost contraception be available to employees, while another 20 states require coverage of prescription contraceptives with employees sharing in the cost.

Several state attorneys general, including California’s Xavier Becerra, have announced plans to try to block the contraception policy change. The American Civil Liberties Union has also filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for Northern California.

The attorney general and the ACLU allege the new riles violate the First Amendment by discriminating against women and favoring the rights of certain religious views without adhering to correct government procedures.

The state also asserts the new rules will have “immediate and irreparable harm on the state of California” by potentially leaving millions of women without birth control access, which could further increase costs for state-funded programs.

We will continue to follow the matter and will share updates on the legal challenges to its implementation.