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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) introduced the concept of a public health insurance exchange (like HealthCare.gov) to most Americans. However, what many business owners and benefits managers may not realize is that California has been home to the most-successful private health insurance exchange for more than 20 years.

The CaliforniaChoice private exchange for small businesses was introduced in 1996. It was the first multi-carrier, employee-choice program established by a private organization specifically to help employers with 100 or fewer employees find affordable health insurance.


A Look Back at Its Origin

The private health exchange concept grew out of a need to give small employers more options than a single-carrier solution. In the 1980s, small businesses were generally only able to choose a single carrier to meet the needs of their entire staff.

Employees often did not like the “one size fits all” approach, so the multi-carrier program was born. It broadened the options available and gave employees the power to find a carrier and benefit plan that made sense for their individual needs.


How Does a Private Exchange Work?

With a multi-carrier private exchange, like CaliforniaChoice, you determine the amount you want to spend on your employees’ benefits. You can choose a Fixed Percentage (50% to 100%) of a specific plan and/or benefit, or you can choose to contribute a Fixed Dollar Amount for each employee. It’s your choice.

Your employees then get to choose the HMO, PPO, or other coverage that best fits their individual or family health care needs. Like with travel aggregator websites like Priceline and Expedia, a health exchange gives your employees the ability to shop and compare plans before making a choice.

Each employee applies your contribution toward the cost of the health plan they like best. If the cost for their preferred plan exceeds your contribution, they simply pay the difference. And everything is consolidated on a single bill, regardless of what each employee selects.

The table below shows other ways an exchange is similar to online tools you may already be using. It includes the value-added benefits offered by each and the value-added features of CaliforniaChoice, the only multi-carrier exchange in California developed for small businesses.


Product or Service Category Direct (Single Source) Consolidated (Multi-Source)
New and Used Autos or Trucks Individual dealerships – you have only vehicles from one manufacturer from which to choose


Shop for every brand using an auto megastore.

Retail Individual stores – you have only a single brand to shop: Nike, Coach, Brookstone, etc.


Shop online or at big-box stores like Amazon and Costco, where you can find multiple brands.

Real Estate Nationwide You can view listings for only one location/metro area at a time using city-specific franchisees of Coldwell Banker, Better Homes & Garden, and RE/MAX.


You can view and compare properties nationwide using online services like Redfin, Zillow, or Trulia.

Fashion Individual stores – you can shop only a single brand: ALDO, Burberry, J. Crew, Levi’s, Tommy Bahama, Calvin Klein.


You can shop and compare multiple brands at department stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s.

Travel You can visit individual hotel, airplane, and rental car websites and view only one brand at a time.


You can shop and compare multiple hotels, airlines, and car rental firms – planning your vacation through a single site like Priceline and Expedia.

Small Business Health Insurance Carrier-direct health care: you can get coverage directly from a single carrier – limiting choice for your employees.


You can shop and compare plans from seven different differ health plans through CaliforniaChoice.

*All product, company names and logos are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them is for reference only and does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.


It’s Easy to Quickly Compare Available Products and Services

CaliforniaChoice is similar to online tools and retailers you may already use. It makes shopping for employee benefits easy for everyone, similar to CarMax, Nordstrom, Amazon, Costco, Priceline, and Expedia.


Multi-Carrier Vs Single Carrier Solution

You know how convenient it is to go to the mall and find multiple shops in the same location – or to go to Costco or Amazon and be able to shop for a wide variety of merchandise in one place. The same principle applies to health insurance for small businesses.

Travel websites like Priceline and Expedia are popular because they allow you to find flights for lots of airlines and cars from many different car rental companies – as compared to going to the individual websites of American, Delta, United, Alamo, Avis, Budget, and others to get schedule and cost information. You generally know what you want to spend and when you want to travel, so these aggregator sites make it easier.

In the same way, a multi-carrier, employee-choice program like CaliforniaChoice lets your employees shop and choose from a broad selection of medical carriers in one place – while also giving them options for other coverage like Dental and Vision.

One of your employees might choose a PPO because of a particular doctor or hospital in their network, while another employee who rarely visits the doctor might choose an HMO. A third employee might choose a Health Savings Account (HSA) compatible HMO because of cost and tax considerations. The choice is up to each employee. But you still have just one bill to pay for all of your employees.

And when you renew, you have the option to adjust your premium contribution up or down, giving you complete control over what you spend on employee benefits for another year.


Talk With Your Broker

To learn more about how a multi-carrier program can expand your options for 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 a quote for Medical, Dental, Vision, and other coverage.

Your broker may also tell you about the Automated Choice Profiler from CaliforniaChoice, which gives you and your employees the power to compare plans not just based on premium, but on doctor availability, quality, affordability, and how you expect to use your plan.


Spring Cleaning Things to Remember: 

  • Spring is a great time to clean up your office and workspace.
  • Switching up decor or color scheme is a great way to liven up the office for the warmer months
  • A proposed measure in the California legislation would give the state a greater say in mergers.
  • Clean up digitally as well. Delete old files/ emails and clear unneeded disk space from your computer

Spring Cleaning Tips For Small Business Offices

It’s Spring and that means it’s time to dust off desks or workstations, remove all (or, at least, some) of the clutter, and clean up around the office. (It is not just something to do at home.)

Here’s Your Quick Office Checklist

1. Clean up your work area:

Take the opportunity, maybe on a quiet Friday, to file papers and put things you don’t need in storage. Ask yourself “Do I really want to keep this?” Then ask, “When is the next time I am likely to need it?” That can help you decide if you should file it, put it into storage, or throw it out altogether.

Dust and disinfect your workspace, including your telephone. Review what’s stashed in your desk drawers. Can you cut down on your desktop clutter? Maybe some of that stuff should be in your drawer, rather than on your desk. Do you have a lot of office supplies? (Maybe too many pens, Post-It® Notes, or paper clips?) Check your supply closet, too. Consider donating any excess to a local charity or share the surplus with others (in or outside of your department), who may be able to put surplus items to use.

In your effort to purge old files, remember to keep in mind any document-retention guidelines or company policy on shredding documents that could contain sensitive information.

2. Clean up your computer (inside & out):

Use a compressed-air duster to clean your keyboard and computer vents. Use a disinfecting cleaner to wipe down your keyboard and mouse. Clean your monitor or display screen with a dry, soft, lint-free cloth; if needed, a liquid solution of mild soap and water is okay, too.

After cleaning the exterior of your laptop/tablet/desk/tower computer, review what is on your computer. Delete files you don’t need – including those on your desktop. Consider reorganizing your files into folders – perhaps by month and year, project name, or whatever works for you. That will help make your searches for information in the future much easier.

Go through your email. Discard messages you no longer need and sort those you want to retain, putting them into folders. You may be one of those folks who uses a “flag” on email for follow-up, but never go back to “un-flag” items and mark them as complete.

3. Change up your décor:

Keep your workspace fresh by swapping out your photos, color scheme, artwork, or whatever décor you have. To the extent possible (based on power outlets and phone and computer station wiring), move things around to give your area a new look. Doing so can make the area more inviting and comfortable. Wipe down your office chair with a disinfectant or other cleaner. (Even if you have a cleaning crew, they may not be as thorough as you think.)

4. Clean your coffee maker:

For health reasons, it’s good to clean your office coffee and/or tea maker routinely. Even if you have a Keurig® or other brewing system, it is important to wipe it down regularly and discard old supplies like napkins, cups, filters, stirrers, and pods.

5. Don’t forget the department frig – and snack area:

Be sure to empty and clean your department refrigerator as well as the microwave, toaster, or other appliances. Use a disinfecting cleaner. Organize what’s on top of your snack table, throwing out any old sugar, salt, or pepper. Check your stash of paper or plastic cups, plastic knives, forks, or spoons as well as straws and paper plates.

Pro Tip: Consider hiring a cleaning service (or one that is used by your property owner or building management firm) for heavy duty work like carpet cleaning, painting and changing fixtures, another thing to consider is asking about a semi-annual or annual steam cleaning of any carpeted areas at your business (including enclosed offices and conference rooms).

You really can revitalize your work area – and your workers – with a little spring-cleaning.


Key Takeaways:

  • Going beyond medical benefits can help you differentiate your company from others when competing for new talent and retaining employees.
  • The Choice Builder exchange – which offers Dental, Vision, Chiropractic & Acupuncture, and Life Insurance – gives your employees access to coverage from some of the country’s top insurers.
  • Coverage can be fully or partially paid for by your company, or paid for entirely by employees.
  • You may be surprised to learn candidates will sometimes take a lower-paying job if it offers outstanding employee benefits.

Meet Choice Builder: The Only Private Exchange for Optional Employee Insurance Benefits

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) introduced the concept of an insurance exchange to many Americans, but the fact of the matter is that private health insurance exchanges have operated in the U.S. for years. One of the country’s most successful private exchanges, CaliforniaChoice, began operations in 1996. Today, it serves 18k small businesses and more than 320k members across California.

Exchange marketplaces – whether they are public or private – are designed to give consumers easier access to a broad range of Employee Insurance Benefits. With an exchange, you and your employees have a variety of carriers and plan options from which to choose, so you can select the coverage that best matches your individual or family health insurance needs and budget.

If you’re a business owner or mid-career manager, you may have dependents you want to include in your coverage. Maybe you take a prescription drug for an ongoing medical condition, such as diabetes or high cholesterol. You may have a preferred doctor, who is only available through a local PPO. Your 20-something administrative assistant or 30-something supervisor may be single or divorced (without children) and not inclined to visit the doctor, other than for a routine annual check-up. The options available in an exchange allow all three of you to find the PPO, HMO, or other coverage that works best for you.

The same holds true for added benefits, like Dental, Vision, Chiropractic & Acupuncture, and Life Insurance. The Choice Builder insurance benefits exchange, created by the same company that operates the CaliforniaChoice health exchange, has just what you need. Choice Builder can help you expand your employee benefits beyond health care. You can contribute to your employees’ added benefits or you can offer these benefits on a completely voluntary basis. You can even “mix and match” coverage, so your company shares in the cost of some coverage (like one of several Dental plans), while the employee pays the full cost for other coverage (say, perhaps, Vision or Life Insurance). The choice is yours.

Why consider added benefits? There are many reasons. As mentioned above, you can choose whether you share the cost, or your employees pay the full cost. Added benefits are a good way to keep your employees happy, too – and happier employees are up to 20 percent more productive. That affects your bottom line.

Dental, Vision, and other benefits can also help you attract and retain employees. You may be surprised to learn a 2017 study by Aflac found a majority (58 percent) of employees would a take a job with lower pay if it offered better insurance benefits. In fact, 16 percent of those surveyed two years ago by Aflac said they have left a job – or turned down a job offer – due to the available benefits.

Choice Builder offers convenience and a variety of coverage options for you and your employees:

  • Dental: You get access to an assortment of Dental plans – from Ameritas, Anthem Blue Cross, Delta Dental, and MetLife.
  • Vision: You can choose Vision coverage from EyeMed and VSP.
  • Chiropractic & Acupuncture: Backed by Landmark Healthplan, a California leader in integrated care, Chiro & Acupuncture is available as an employer-sponsored benefit.
  • Life: Program Life Insurance is offered by Assurity Life.

    Pick one, or pick them all; the choice is yours. And you’ll receive just one monthly bill for all of your employees’ added Choice Builder benefits. Plus, you can easily manage those benefits through one website.

    The additional advantage offered by Choice Builder is convenience. You don’t have to go to different insurance companies to offer the coverage your employees want; it’s all available through the Choice Builder program. You get access to a wide variety of Dental options – from Ameritas, Anthem Blue Cross, Delta Dental, and MetLife plus Vision coverage from EyeMed and VSP. Life Insurance is offered by Assurity Life. And Chiropractic & Acupuncture treatments, available as an employer-sponsored benefit, are backed by Landmark Healthplan, a California leader in integrated care since 1985. Best of all, you get one monthly bill for all of your employees’ added benefits – and you can easily manage their benefits through one website. There’s just one toll-free number for assistance, too.

    To learn more about Choice Builder – and how the added benefits it offers can help you attract and retain employees and, potentially, increase productivity, too – talk with your employee benefits broker. If you don’t have a current broker, we can help you find one.

    Owners and managers of small businesses in San Diego can sometimes find it difficult when shopping for employee health insurance benefits. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, if you know about the CaliforniaChoice multi-carrier, employee-choice program offering access to seven of the state’s leading health plans.

    In San Diego, you and your employees can choose coverage from Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, Sharp Health Plan, and UnitedHealthcare. You have access to some of the region’s top networks, hospitals, and medical centers, including Scripps Memorial Encinitas, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, Sharp Memorial Hospital, Rady Children’s Hospital, and UC San Diego Medical Center.

    We also deliver valuable tools to help you and your employees easily match your health care needs to your health plan – and to enroll online when you are ready.