Choice Stories

April 15, 2021

CaliforniaChoice Celebrating 25 Years of Choice

2021 is a big year for CaliforniaChoice. The state's best small business, multi-carrier, employee-choice private health insurance exchange turns 25. That means CaliforniaChoice has been offering greater access to health care for a quarter of a century!

How It All Started

The CaliforniaChoice co-founders, John Word and Rusty Brown, recognized a need in the market. They set their sights on providing a health insurance option to small businesses centered on choice. Blazing new trails is never easy, especially in the health insurance industry, but their vision never wavered.

With determination and hard work, John and Rusty brought their vision to life in 1996, with the launch of CaliforniaChoice. Today, CaliforniaChoice is recognized as the nation's most successful health exchange of it's class. CaliforniaChoice currently serves 20,000+ groups and 335,000+ members. The exchange continues to flourish because it’s focused on meeting the diverse health care needs of employers and their employees throughout California.

More Coverage Options

CaliforniaChoice delivers more by offering you and your employees access to eight health plans. With CaliforniaChoice, you get greater access to more doctors, specialists, and hospitals – plus optional benefits and value-added extras. The current carrier roster includes:

  • Anthem Blue Cross
  • Health Net
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Oscar
  • Sharp Health Plan
  • Sutter Health Plus
  • UnitedHealthcare
  • Western Health Advantage

With CaliforniaChoice, each of your employees can choose the health plan that best meets his or her unique personal and family needs. For example, one employees might choose a PPO from Anthem Blue Cross because of a particular doctor or hospital in its network. A second employee might choose an Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) plan from Kaiser Permanente or Oscar. A third employee, who rarely visits the doctor, might choose an HMO from Health Net, one of the available regional options. Another employee might choose an HSA-compatible HMO from UnitedHealthcare because of cost and tax considerations. Whatever your employees’ needs may be, it’s their Choice!

It doesn't stop there. You get optional Dental, Vision, Chiropractic & Acupuncture, and Life Insurance for your employees, too. Even better, there are additional free benefits available to you, your business, and your employees through the CaliforniaChoice Business Solutions Suite and Member Value Suite.

One, Two, or Three Tiers – or All Tiers

For 25 years, CaliforniaChoice has offered access to more choice than any other program in California. You can choose up to four Affordable Care Act (ACA) metal tiers for your group’s coverage:

  • Single Choice: Offers employees access to the health plans and benefits available in a single tier (for example, Silver)
  • Double Choice: Offers employees access to the health plans and benefits available in two neighboring ACA tiers: Bronze and Silver or Silver and Gold or Gold and Platinum
  • Triple Choice: Offers employees access to the health plans and benefits available in three neighboring ACA tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold or Silver, Gold, Platinum
  • Total Choice: Offers employees access to the health plans and benefits in all four ACA tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum

Total Choice delivers for everyone:

  • Provides the most plan choices and price points to satisfy diverse employee needs
  • Employees can buy up or down, while you are still able to control costs for your business without limiting choice for employees
  • Encourages participation by offering a lower-cost option for employees who want to enroll dependents
  • There is no extra cost to offer Total Choice, and there’s no participation requirement for any tier. Your cost is the same whatever tier you choose because you select your own Defined Contribution (see “Greater Cost Control” below)

Technology to Make Choosing Easy

Not sure what plan you should enroll in? Not a problem. Our Smart Decision Technology tools to make it easy to find the health plan that best matches your or your employees’ health care needs:

  • Plan Comparison Tool: Compare plans based on premium, overall costs (copays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses), benefit type, and quality.
  • Online Provider Search: Find the health plans that include your preferred doctors, look for a new doctor, or search by hospital, medical group, and provider network affiliations.
  • Online Rx Search: Search for prescription drugs by brand or drug name, therapeutic class, or health condition. Find out which plans offer coverage for the prescriptions you need.
  • Online Enrollment (OLE): Go paperless and let employees enroll online; it helps eliminate incomplete applications, reduces the number of pending items, and decreases your overall group enrollment processing time.

Greater Cost Control

CaliforniaChoice helps you control your employee benefits costs. That’s because you choose how much you want to spend on benefits with Defined Contribution.

You can choose a Fixed Percentage (50% to 100%) of a specific plan and/or benefit, or you can contribute a Fixed Dollar Amount for each employee. Your employees then apply your generous contribution to whichever health plan and benefits they prefer. If an employee selects a plan that costs more than your contribution, he or she simply pays the difference.

When you renew CaliforniaChoice, you have the option to adjust your Defined Contribution, giving you complete control over what you spend on employee benefits for another year.

CaliforniaChoice Helps Your Business

Offering a fully-loaded benefits package like CaliforniaChoice gives you a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining the best employees. A survey by the Harvard Business Review found 88% of respondents would choose a job that offers a lower salary with better health, dental, and vision insurance over an opportunity with a higher salary but lesser benefits.

It doesn’t stop there either. With CaliforniaChoice, whether you have only a few employees or 100, you get a single monthly bill that lists all coverage selected, your contribution, and your employees’ deductions. It’s also easy to pay your bill and manage your benefits online at

Talk With a Broker to Learn More

To find out more about how CaliforniaChoice can help you offer more choice to your employees – and while it continues to attract more members after 25 years – talk with an employee benefits broker. If you don’t currently have an insurance agent or broker, you can search for one here.



CaliforniaChoice Milestones

During the past 25 years, CaliforniaChoice has refined our program to address the changing needs of our members. Below are a few of our milestones.


CaliforniaChoice launches the first private health exchange in the history of California.


CaliforniaChoice co-founders John M. Word III and Edward J. “Rusty” Brown, Jr. receive the “Entrepreneur of the Year” award from Ernst & Young.


CaliforniaChoice earns the prestigious “Innovators Award” for true industry advancement from the Health Insurance Association of America.


CaliforniaChoice welcomes Kaiser Permanente and Western Health Advantage to the private exchange program.


CaliforniaChoice welcomes Anthem Blue Cross to the private exchange program.


CaliforniaChoice welcomes UnitedHealthcare to the private exchange program.


CaliforniaChoice welcomes Sutter Health Plus to the private exchange program.

CaliforniaChoice introduces the Automated Choice Profiler, which compares health plans and benefits. (Today, we offer a similar Plan Comparison Tool to assist in shopping and comparing plans.)

CaliforniaChoice launches an online enrollment solution to aid brokers, employers, and enrolling employees.


CaliforniaChoice welcomes Oscar to the private exchange program.

CaliforniaChoice introduces Triple Tier Choice to give employers and their employees access to plans and benefits in three Affordable Care Act metal tiers: Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Membership in CaliforniaChoice reaches 300,000+ members enrolled through 18,000 employer groups.


CaliforniaChoice adds the ChooseHealthyTM program to its Member Value Suite, expanding its valued-added products and services available to members.

The Word & Brown Companies, including CHOICE Administrators, receive HITRUST certification, the most prestigious certifiable security framework for the health care industry.


CaliforniaChoice introduces Total Choice to give employers and their employees access to plans and benefits in all four Affordable Care Act metal tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Three new full-network PPO plans from Anthem Blue Cross, offering access to the Anthem Blue Cross Prudent Buyer network, are added to the options available to CaliforniaChoice members.

The Orange County Register recognizes The Word & Brown Companies – including CHOICE Administrators – as a Top Work Place in Orange County for 2020.


CaliforniaChoice launches its redesigned website featuring a streamlined, modern design and improved functionality for brokers, employers, and members.

CaliforniaChoice welcomes Cigna + Oscar to the private exchange program (for coverage effective in July 2021).

Your Beginner's Guide to Choosing a Small Business Employee Benefits Program

Do you need help choosing the right health benefits for your employees?
This guide can help!