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If you’re interested in giving your employees the freedom to choose from eight different health plans in a single program, CaliforniaChoice is for you. Choice is a part of our name – and we have been offering more of it to Californians since 1996.

Having a variety of PPO, HMO, EPO, and other health plan options is important, because it gives you the opportunity to match a plan to your specific health care needs. We launched our health plan comparison series in 2020 to help you understand the advantages offered by each of the eight health plans that are part of CaliforniaChoice.

The comparison below looks at Anthem Blue Cross, which is available statewide, and Oscar Health, which offers group coverage in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Anthem Blue Cross

One of the state’s largest insurers, Anthem Blue Cross delivers coverage to millions of Californians. The insurer offers flexible, innovative benefits, health improvement programs, and simplified administration.

Anthem Benefits Overview

Oscar Health

Oscar is the country’s first technology-driven health insurer focused on improving the member experience through easy, personalized service.

Oscar for Business was launched to bring the same Oscar experience that individuals already love to the employer market.

 Oscar Benefits Overview

The CaliforniaChoice Advantage

With CaliforniaChoice, one of your employees might choose Anthem Blue Cross because of its broad provider network, while another selects Oscar because of its focus on health care integration with technology. They both get what they want with CaliforniaChoice – plus the option to choose from six other plans. In addition, there are employer benefits, too – including single-source administration for enrollment, eligibility, billing, and customer service.

Check back to see additional comparisons for other CaliforniaChoice health plans:

To learn more about coverage options available from CaliforniaChoice, talk with your employee benefits or health insurance agent. If you don’t have an agent, you can search for one here.

COVID-19 has changed a lot of things; among them is how Americans shop. While most retailers have reopened to some extent – and malls are beginning to see a return of shoppers – the idea of holiday crowds is off-putting for some.

If you and your employees are looking for an alternative way to do your holiday shopping, consider the benefits available to you through Cal Perks. It’s one of the many value-added features of your CaliforniaChoice membership, accessible through the Member Value Suite at calchoice.com.  

What’s Available Through Cal Perks?

The Cal Perks discount program delivers access to dozens of offers that can save you and your employees hundreds of dollars (or more) annually – on gifts as well as food delivery services, online education, fitness and wellness, travel, and more.

The savings can really add up when you shop for:

In addition to being a great source of possible gifts for your friends and relatives, Cal Perks delivers 45% savings on 12-months of Rosetta Stone; $140 off virtual tech camps from ID Tech; a 30-day free trial and discounted membership at Audiobooks; 35% off your first KiwiCo box; and 30% off at ABC Mouse for kids (an early learning academy).

If your employees are working from home, or if you need new equipment for your office, Cal Perks can save you up to 25% off on HP computers, 20% off at VistaPrint.com, and 10% on office and school supplies at Office Depot.

Plus, Cal Perks offers up to 60% savings on hotel stays and 30% off car rentals. You can also take advantage of discounted family fun at Universal Studios Hollywood, amusement parks statewide, water parks, harbor cruises, boat charters, sporting events, and more.

Movie tickets from AMC, Cinemark, Pacific, Regal, and other theaters are available at up to 35% savings.

Download the Cal Perks flyer here, ADD LINK or view the Cal Perks video on YouTube here.

Cal Perks is constantly evolving. Many of the current savings opportunities were added in 2020, and more are expected in 2021.

Talk With Your Broker to Learn More

Your employee benefits broker can tell you more about Cal Perks as well as the other value-added extras offered to you and your employees when you’re a member of CaliforniaChoice. If you’re already a CaliforniaChoice member, you can contact our Customer Service team at 800.558.8003 with any questions. If you are not a current CaliforniaChoice member, but you’d like to learn more the multi-carrier, employee-choice health insurance program, you can search for a broker here.

The Orange County Register Names  The Word & Brown Companies a Winner of the Orange County Top Work Places 2020 Award                                                                                                                               

The Word & Brown Companies have been awarded a Top Work Places 2020 honor by The Orange County Register. The list is based solely on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey administered by employee engagement technology partner Energage, LLC. The anonymous survey uniquely measures 15 drivers of engaged cultures that are critical to the success of any organization, including alignment, execution, and connection, just to name a few.

“We are excited to again earn this award from The Orange County Register as one of the region’s top work places,” said John Word, co-founder of The Word & Brown Companies. “Orange County has been our headquarters since we began more than 35 years ago, and it’s a great place to recruit employees who embrace our longstanding philosophy of Service of Unequalled Excellence.”

“We thank everyone on our team for sharing their honest and open feedback that led to this recognition,” said Edward J. “Rusty” Brown, Jr., Word & Brown co-founder. “It’s great to be among such an elite group of Orange County employers. We appreciate all of our employees’ contributions to our organizational success, and we are humbled to be selected for this honor.”

“In times of great change, it is more important than ever to maintain a connection among employees,” said Eric Rubino, Energage CEO. “When you give your employees a voice, you come together to navigate challenges and shape your path forward based on real-time insights into what works best for your organization. The Top Work Places program can be that positive outcome your company can rally around in the coming months to celebrate leadership and the importance of maintaining an employee-focused culture, even during challenging times.”

About The Word & Brown Companies

The Word & Brown Companies are comprised of three distinct businesses. Established in 1985, the Word & Brown General Agency is among the nation’s largest General Agents, with a focus on group and individual and family health insurance. CHOICE Administrators is the parent organization for CaliforniaChoice, the nation’s largest multi-carrier, small group private health exchange, and ChoiceBuilder, the nation’s first ancillary benefits exchange. The Companies also offer two no-cost prescription drug discount cards, the California Rx Card and Nevada Drug Card, which deliver savings of up to 80 percent on prescription medications at more than 68,000 pharmacies nationwide. For more information, visit www.wbcompanies.com.

About Energage

Energage offers a fully unified SaaS platform, plus support and professional services, to help organizations recruit and retain the right talent. As a B-Corporation founding member, Energage has committed itself to the purpose of making the world a better place to work together. Based on 14 years of culture research, the engine behind 51 Top Work Places programs across the country, and data gathered from over 20 million employees at 60,000 organizations, Energage has isolated the 15 drivers of engaged cultures that are critical to the success of any business, and developed the tools and expertise to help organizations measure, shape, and showcase their unique culture to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. For more information, please visit energage.com.

If you’re interested in giving your employees the freedom to choose from eight different health plans in a single program, CaliforniaChoice is for you. Choice is a part of our name – and we have been offering more of it to Californians since 1996.

Having a variety of PPO, HMO, EPO, and other health plan options is important, because it gives you the opportunity to match a plan to your specific health care needs. We launched our health plan comparison series in 2020 to help you understand the advantages offered by each of the eight health plans that are part of CaliforniaChoice.

The comparison below looks at Oscar Health, which offers group coverage in Los Angeles and Orange counties, and Sutter Health Plus, which is available regionally in Northern California.

Oscar Health

Oscar is the country’s first technology-driven health insurer focused on improving the member experience through easy, personalized service.

Oscar for Business was launched to bring the same Oscar experience that individuals already love to the employer market.

 Oscar Benefits Overview

Sutter Health Plus

A not-for-profit health plan, Sutter Health Plus serves the Greater Central Valley, Sacramento, and San Francisco Bay areas of Northern California, offering competitively priced HMO health plans. With Sutter Health Plus, you have access to a high-quality provider network that includes many of Sutter Health’s nationally respected and recognized hospitals, doctors, and other health care services – all at an affordable price.

Sutter Health Plus Benefits Overview

The CaliforniaChoice Advantage

With CaliforniaChoice, one of your employees might choose Sutter Health because of its provider network, while another selects Oscar because of its focus on health care integration with technology. They both get what they want with CaliforniaChoice – plus the option to choose from six other plans. In addition, there are employer benefits, too – including single-source administration for enrollment, eligibility, billing, and customer service.

Check back to see additional comparisons for other CaliforniaChoice health plans:

To learn more about coverage options available from CaliforniaChoice, talk with your employee benefits or health insurance agent. If you don’t have an agent, you can search for one here.

Group health insurance protects your employees and their covered family members from unexpected costs associated with an accident or health condition. As an employer, it’s also valuable in recruiting and retaining employees.

Multiple studies done by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) show that health insurance is among the most important benefits to employees. In fact, the human resources group found in 2018 that more than half (56%) of adults with employer-sponsored health benefits said approving of their health insurance was a key factor in deciding whether to stay on the job. Nearly half (46%) said health insurance was either the deciding factor or a positive influence is choosing their current job.

The onset of COVID-19 has forced some employers to cut back on staffing while putting a spotlight on health care – motivating some businesses that did not offer benefits to reconsider. If you’re among those looking at coverage for the first time – or shopping around if you already offer coverage – now’s a good time to begin your search. Fourth quarter is traditionally a busy time for insurance companies and employee benefits agents and brokers, because so many employers have January to December coverage.

As you consider your options, here is some valuable information on the types of group health insurance available to small businesses.

An Affordable Care Act (ACA) Primer

The federal health care law became effective 10 years ago, increasing coverage options for individuals as well as small groups. Prior to implementation of the ACA, California’s uninsured rate was 17.2% in 2013, as compared to 7.2% five years later.

The ACA mandates that Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) – those with at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, on average during the prior year – offer minimum essential health coverage to full-time employees and eligible dependents.

If you are not an ALE, you are not required to offer ACA-compliant health coverage; however, many employers, regardless of group size, do offer employee health benefits for recruitment and retention purposes. (To determine if your business is an ALE subject to the ACA shared responsibility provision, link here to visit the ACA Information Center on the IRS website.)

PPOs, HMOs, and EPOs

There are several different types of health insurance coverage options available in the small business marketplace today. You can choose direct coverage through an insurance company, a public or private exchange like Covered California or CaliforniaChoice, or use an agent to help you shop and compare plans from multiple insurers.

Among the most popular options marketed by insurance carriers are Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans. Both have been around for decades and have broad appeal in California. In fact, according to information from the Kaiser Family Foundation State Health Facts, in 2018, HMOs had a 59.2% overall penetration rate in California (vs. 31.6% nationally). The California Health Care Foundation reported an overall PPO penetration rate of 24% in the prior year across all commercial health plans in California, ranging from 15% for large groups, 34% for small groups, and 52% for individual coverage.

Subscriber-members are often attracted to HMOs because of their lower costs and an emphasis on preventive care. What is less appealing for some, however, is an HMO’s limited provider network. An HMO typically limits access to specialists without patients first consulting with a Primary Care Physician (PCP). Using a doctor outside the HMO network also comes with higher out-of-pocket costs.

PPOs, in contrast, may charge members a higher monthly premium, but offer greater flexibility in choosing a doctor or specialist – or when seeking treatment in urgent circumstances.

A somewhat newer coverage option is an Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) plan, which is a sort of hybrid between an HMO and PPO. An EPO offers a local network of doctors and hospitals from which its members can choose, but may limit benefits when outside the network. EPO coverage may be more affordable than PPO premiums, and EPOs often allow members to self-refer to specialists who are part of the EPO network. Outside the network, there may be no or limited coverage.

Finding Coverage for Your Business and Employees

One way to learn more about your local health plan coverage options is to talk with an employee benefits broker. Consulting a broker does not cost you more – and it can actually help you save on your employees’ coverage. That’s because a local broker is likely to be familiar with the health care providers (including doctors, specialists, and hospitals) that are part of each of the health plans available in your community. If you don’t have a broker, you can search for one here.

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law 10 years ago by President Barack Obama, ACA-compliant group health plans are required to include coverage for what the legislation describes as essential health benefits (EHBs).

The ACA’s 10 EHBs include:

For additional information, visit the HealthCare.gov website.

ACA-compliant plans are available in four metal tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Each of the tiers represents a different level of cost sharing for the insured, as shown below:

ACA Metal Tier Health Plan/Insurance Pays Insured Pays
Bronze 60% 40%
Silver 70% 30%
Gold 80% 20%
Platinum 90% 10%

Deciding which ACA tier is right for you and your employees

There are important things to consider when selecting the tier of coverage for your group. A Bronze tier plan offers the lowest monthly premium, but also higher costs when you need to seek care. The deductible (the amount paid before the insurance plans starts to pay) on a Bronze plan can be thousands of dollars annually.

A Bronze plan can be a good choice if you’re looking for a way to protect yourself from a worst-case scenario, such as a major illness or injury. While your monthly cost may be low, you will have to pay for most routine care on your own (except for preventive care and wellness services, which are part of EHB coverage).

If you are considering a Silver tier plan, you can expect a more moderate monthly premium and moderate costs when seeking care. You’ll find a deductible on a Silver plan is typically lower than a Bronze plan deductible.

If you are willing to pay a slightly higher monthly premium, you’re likely to find more of your routine care covered under a Silver plan (as compared to a Bronze tier plan).

A Gold tier plan has higher monthly premiums than a Bronze or Silver plan, but it offers lower costs when you need care, because as shown above in the table, it typically pays 80% of medical costs. A Gold tier plan also usually offers a lower deductible before your plan begins to pay.

If you or your employees have a greater need for care, and you’re able to pay the higher premium for coverage, you may find a Gold plan is a good value.

A Platinum tier plan comes with the highest monthly premium, but the lowest costs when you get care. Deductibles are often very low, which means you plan starts paying its share of the costs earlier than plans in other tiers (like Bronze, Silver, or Gold).

If you frequently require medical services and are able to pay the higher Platinum tier premium, it may be worthwhile given that 90% of medical costs will be covered by your plan.

The HealthCare.gov website offers more information about calculating your “total costs of care” here.

What’s the Minimum?

You don’t have to be a large group to purchase group health insurance. Health plans write groups with as few as two covered persons (a business owner and an employee). It’s worth noting, though, that some carriers will not write a husband and wife group if both are owners of the business, or a business that is a sole proprietorship.

Employer Mandate

If your small business qualifies as an Applicable Large Employer (ALE), you are subject to the ACA employer mandate, which is sometimes referred to as the Employer Shared Responsibility Payment. The mandate affects employers with 50 or more full-time and full-time equivalent employees (working 30 or more hours weekly). It requires ALEs to offer health insurance that is “affordable” and provide minimum value to 95% of full-time employees and their children until they reach age 26. Failing to offer such coverage could subject your business to ACA penalties, which in 2020 range from $2,570 t $3,860 per employee depending on the violation (section 4980H (a) or 4980H (b)).

Affordability is determined by whether the employee share of the premium for the lowest-priced, self-only coverage does not exceed a specified percentage of the employee’s household income; for 2020, it is 9.78%; in 2021, it will be 9.83%. If an employee’s share of the premium cost exceeds this threshold, you must increase the employee’s subsidy to make coverage more affordable.

If you’re not sure if your business is an ALE (subject to the mandate), you can use the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) calculator here, or the calculators on the CaliforniaChoice website. (Just click on “ACA Calculators” in the lower-right corner of the home page.)

Multiple Options Available

If you are shopping for Group Health Insurance, you will likely be able to choose from several different health plan options for your small business. Some carriers offer one, two, or a few plan types, while others may offer dozens. An exchange program, like the Covered California public exchange, or the CaliforniaChoice private exchange, offers a range of options, including HMO (Health Maintenance Organization), PPO (Preferred Provider Organization), or EPO (Exclusive Provider Organization) plans.

Each type of plan offers different out-of-pocket costs and co-pays (shared costs), which may or may not include coverage outside of your selected health plan’s provider network service area. For example, some HMOs and EPOs may serve only a limited geographic region.

Talk to a Broker to Learn More

Ask your employee benefits broker or health insurance agent for information about the plans available in your area. A broker can give you a custom quote for your business and employees. If you don’t already have a broker, you can search for one here.

CaliforniaChoice gives you and your employees the freedom to choose from eight different health plans in a single program – plus options for Dental, Vision, Chiropractic & Acupuncture, and Life & AD&D.

To evaluate what option fits your needs, we’re shedding light on the advantages offered by each plan in our plan comparison series. This comparison provides details into the Voluntary Vision programs offered by EyeMed and VSP.

Here’s a snapshot of the two programs:

Voluntary Vision from EyeMed
(Provided by Ameritas)
Voluntary Vision from VSP
(Provided by Ameritas)
All CaliforniaChoice members and their eligible dependents may enroll in one of the Voluntary Vision plans if the employer elects this coverage.
Comprehensive Benefits: Members access quality vision care and prescription eyewear through a vast network of doctors. Out-of-network coverage is also available. Comprehensive Services: VSP offers members access to the nation’s largest network of eye care professionals. Out-of-network coverage is also available.
Low Fee Exams: In-network benefits offer a low copay of just $10 for an eye exam.
Easy to Use: To find a nearby provider, visit www.eyemedvisioncare.com, click on “Members” and then “Find an Eye Doctor.” VSP Network: To find a VSP doctor or premier retail chain location close to you, visit www.vsp.com, and click on “Find a Doctor.”

There’s also a no-cost Vision benefit available to all CaliforniaChoice members through the Member Value Suite. It includes up to 40% savings on frames and bifocals, 15% savings on non-disposable contact lenses, and exam discounts at participating Doctors of Optometry.

For additional information about CaliforniaChoice, its Member Value Suite, and available Voluntary Vision programs, talk with your employee benefits agent or health insurance broker. If you don’t already have one, we can help you find one here.