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Small businesses – and employers across America – continue to await a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on whether the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional. A decision is expected before the Court’s term ends in June. In the interim, the ACA remains the law of the land – affecting what employers are required to offer health insurance to employees.

Below, we’ve summarized ACA requirements that could affect your business in 2021.

ACA Employer Mandate

The employer mandate requires Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) to offer their full-time employees and eligible dependents “Minimum Essential Coverage” (MEC). An ALE is generally a business with at least 50 full-time and full-time equivalent employees, on average, during the prior calendar year. If you’re not certain if your business qualifies as an ALE, there’s a useful Full-Time Equivalent Employee Calculator on the HealthCare.gov website.

If you are subject to the employer mandate and you fail to offer “affordable” MEC coverage to 95% of your eligible full-time employees and their children, then you are subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility Payment Penalty. This is sometimes referred to as the “pay or play provision.”

The 2021 penalty is $2,700 for each full-time employee minus the first 30. For example, if you are an employer with 100 employees and you do not offer health insurance to full-time employees and their dependents, and at least one of your employees goes to the Covered California public exchange for tax-subsidized health insurance, your penalty will be $189,000 (100 – 30 = 70 x $2,700).

Essential Health Benefits

To comply with the ACA, qualifying health coverage must include 10 Essential Health Benefits (EHBs):

Most group plans you may be considering are likely compliant with ACA guidelines; however, it’s a good idea to discuss your available options with a licensed employee benefits broker.

Determining Affordability

If you offer health insurance coverage to your employees, but their share of the cost for 2021 is greater than 9.83% of their annual household income, the coverage is not considered affordable. Offering “unaffordable” ACA-compliant coverage to your subjects your business to a different ACA penalty. Because employers rarely know their employees’ total household income, you can take advantage of several “safe harbors” set forth by the IRS. The Society of Human Resource Management published an article in 2020 that discusses the 2021 affordability threshold and available safe harbors.

Minimum Value

According to the IRS, an employer-sponsored health plan offers minimum value if it covers at least 60% of the total allowed cost of benefits expected to be incurred under the plan. That requirement would be met by offering a Bronze-level ACA-compliant plan.

Under the ACA, four metal tiers of coverage are available: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. A higher metal tier offers a greater percentage of covered costs. For example, at the Bronze tier, the plan covers 60% of health care costs and the insured pays 40%; a Silver plan covers 70% of health care costs, with the insured paying 30%; and a Gold plan covers 80% of health care costs, while the insured pays 20%. Finally, a Platinum-level plan covers 90% of health care costs, and the insured pays 10%. Higher metal tier plans have higher premiums, but a higher tier plan can cost a patient less in the long term if medical care is needed.

No Requirement for Non-ALEs

If your business is not an ALE, you are not required to offer ACA-compliant health coverage to your employees. However, there are several reasons why you might want to consider it.

California Health Care Mandate

Although California has a Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) mandate for individuals, it’s not something about which employers need to be concerned. It does not require businesses to play a role to ensure employees have coverage; it only mandates that most California residents have health insurance, obtain a qualifying exemption, or pay a fine to the California Franchise Tax Board (CFTB) when taxes are filed. A penalty estimator and more information is available on the CFTB website.

Qualifying coverage can be in any of several forms, including:

If you offer health insurance coverage to your employees, and you provide them with information on that coverage each year using IRS Form 1095-C, your employees can confirm they are in compliance with the California MEC Health Care Mandate.

Shopping for Group Plans

One important thing to know is that your cost as an employer does have not be influenced by the coverage your employee selects. You can help control your costs using Defined Contribution, which is available from the CaliforniaChoice multi-carrier, employee-choice health insurance exchange.

With CaliforniaChoice, you can choose a Fixed Percentage contribution of a specific plan and/or benefit, or you can to contribute a Fixed Dollar Amount for each of your employees. (The contribution needs to be the same for each.) Your employees then apply your generous contribution to whichever health plan and benefits they like best. CaliforniaChoice offers dozens of coverage options from nine different health plans across the state. If an employee selects a plan that costs more than your contribution, he or she simply pays the difference.

If you are interested in learning more about the employee benefits options available to you and your employees, one of the best ways to do so is to talk with an employee benefits agent or broker. Services are typically available at no cost, and consulting a broker can actually save you money.

That’s because a local broker will know your marketplace, the HMO, PPO, and other coverage options in your area, health care providers that are part of each health plan’s network, and any value-added benefits that may be available. If you do not already have a broker, we can help you find one here.

If you offer one or more High Deductible Health Plan (HDHPs) to your employees, you may know that, while it lowers the monthly premium, it raises the deductible (i.e., you pay more for health services before an insurance plan pays). However, you may not know the advantages of pairing a HDHP with a Health Savings Account (HSA).

How It Works

For 2021, out-of-pockets costs on an HDHP cannot exceed $7,000 for self-only coverage or $14,000 and family health coverage. Still, that’s a significant amount of money for the average person. This where a HSA can help. Individuals with an HDHP (and a plan deductible of $1,400 for individual coverage or $2,800 for family coverage) can use an HSA to pay for eligible out-of-pocket health care costs, including the deductible.

What’s more, contributions made by employees to an HSA generally are not subject to federal income tax, nor state taxes in most cases. Earnings grow on contributions tax-free. And, withdraws are not taxed as long as funds are used to pay for qualified medical expenses. In addition, unspent HSA funds roll over at the end of the year, making them available for future qualified expenses.

That contrasts to a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), which is a “use it or lose it” account, although there is often a grace period of up to two and a half months during which an account holder can use unspent FSA money. This is separate and distinct from an FSA Run-Out Period, which allows employee claims for up to 90 days after the plan year ends – so long as expenses are incurred during the plan year, on or before December 31.

Retirement boost: After reaching age 65, account holders can use HSA funds to supplement retirement, although money is subject to income tax (at the federal and state level) if not used for medical-related expenses.

FSAs vs. HSAs

In addition to the roll over aspect of FSAs mentioned above, there are other differences between FSA and HSAs.

FSAs are only available through an employer, and an FSA cannot be established by a person who is self-employed or unemployed. If an employee leaves his or her employer, the FSA does not travel, too; funds are forfeited to the employer. Not so for an HSA.

An HSA can be set up through an employer, or independently through a qualifying financial institution. Bankrate.com published an article in 2020, How to choose the best health savings account, with other guidance on the topic.

Unlike with an FSA, if an employee leaves his or her employer, the HSA is portable. That means he or she can still take advantage of the accumulated funds saved after changing employers or retiring.

Qualifying HSA Expenses

Your employees can use HSA funds to cover a diverse array of medical, dental, and other health services. Under the 2020 COVID-19 relief program known as the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), over-the-counter medications and other expenses also qualify as HSA expenses. Visit the IRS Newsroom for more information.

HSA Contributions and Contributors

Employees can contribute to an HSA until age 65. However, contributions are not limited to just employees. An employee’s family members and employer can also contribute to an employees’ HSA, so long as the combined contributions don’t exceed the annual limits shown below:

HSA Contribution Limits for 2021 Self-Only Account Family Account
Company + Employee Contribution Limit $3,600 $7,200
HSA Catch-Up Contribution Limit for Employees Age 55+ $1,000 $1,000

Note: Contribution limits are based on calendar year; allowable HSA contributions are prorated by the number of months an individual is eligible to contribute. Catch-up contributions are also prorated. Eligible individuals can contribute to an HSA at any time during the tax year, including up through the federal tax filing due date (April 15, 2022). HSA contribution limits typically change each year. Visit the IRS website for further information.

Additional HSA information from the IRS is available in Publication 969.

In comparison, the dollar limit for employee contributions to an FSA remains $2,750 for 2021.

Of course, forecasting health care expenses is not easy. Being able to carry over funds from one year to the next can make an HSA more attractive to employees than an FSA.

If you have questions, check out the Mayo Clinic article, Health savings accounts: Is an HSA right for you?, or 10 Things to Know About a Health Savings Account, published by the Balance.com, for additional guidance.

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:

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:

Total Choice delivers for everyone:

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:

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 calchoice.com.

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.

 

SIDEBAR

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.

1996

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

2001

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

2002

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

2003

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

2010

CaliforniaChoice welcomes Anthem Blue Cross to the private exchange program.

2014

CaliforniaChoice welcomes UnitedHealthcare to the private exchange program.

2015

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.

2018

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.

2019

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.

2020

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.

2021

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).

President Joe Biden signed a new COVID-19 relief package, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), into law on Thursday, March 11, 2021.

The ARPA includes funding for a variety of programs, including:

Additional information on the PPP, EIDL, and shuttered operator venue grants is available on the SBA website. Interested employers can also search for a lender match on the site.

For more information on the American Rescue Plan Act, link here to The Washington Post.

If you’re among the groups offering your employees more health care choices using the CaliforniaChoice small group private health insurance exchange – or, if you’re considering employee benefits for the first time – you should know about the ChoiceBuilder ancillary benefits exchange.

ChoiceBuilder is a great complement to CaliforniaChoice, because ChoiceBuilder offers Dental, Vision, Chiropractic & Acupuncture, and Life Insurance through a single program. Coverage is available on either an employer-sponsored or voluntary basis, or a combination of the two. All employees’ coverage is billed together each month, so you don’t have the burden of dealing with multiple carriers’ invoices. There’s also just one employer application and one employee worksheet, plus one website to manage your ChoiceBuilder account.

It’s an ideal way to give employees access to more insurance without driving up costs for your business. That’s because ChoiceBuilder lets you select between Employer-sponsored coverage, which you decide how much you want to contribute to employee coverage, and Voluntary coverage, which lets employees enroll voluntarily at no cost to the business.

2021 Expansion

ChoiceBuilder is expanding in 2021 to offer coverage to groups of up to 500 employees (effective March 1, 2021, or later).

Coverage Choices

With ChoiceBuilder, you can choose from the following options for your employees:

Or, as previously noted, you can mix and match employer-sponsored and voluntary coverage, and share the costs on some insurance with your employees. If you choose, you can even offer ChoiceBuilder coverage to employees working less than 40 hours per week, as long as they work 20 or more hours weekly. Currently, ChoiceBuilder serves more than 8,000 California groups and 130,000+ members.

Diverse Carrier Roster

ChoiceBuilder offers a roster of insurers and administrators, as shown below:

Ask your broker about how you can make ChoiceBuilder your “go to” for ancillary benefits and your new full-service hub for Dental, Vision, Chiro & Acupuncture, and Life. ChoiceBuilder simplifies ancillary for you, so you can focus on your business and your customers.

Talk With a Broker to Learn More

You can offer ChoiceBuilder as a complement to health coverage through CaliforniaChoice, or as an add-on to health coverage available directly through a different program. ChoiceBuilder does not have to be added during your group’s traditional open enrollment period. In fact, some employees may appreciate the availability of ancillary apart from health coverage. ChoiceBuilder is available at any time. To get a quote for your business, ask your broker. If you don’t currently have an insurance agent or employee benefits broker, you can search for one here.

Following considerable negotiation, Congress voted December 21, 2020, to authorize additional funding for new COVID-19 assistance for businesses and individuals. President Trump put his signature on the bill on December 27, 2020, and applications for assistance resumed on January 11, 2021.

Part of the sweeping bill that includes emergency economic relief, government funding, and tax cuts, the legislation is one of the largest measures enacted by the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

The legislation includes an extension of federal unemployment benefits – providing $300 per week through mid-March to those laid off because of the coronavirus – as well as direct payments of up to $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 annually (or couples making up to $150,000) and an added $600 for each dependent child.

Other financial aid offered by the COVID-19 relief legislation includes:

The most significant aspect of the legislation for small businesses is
a revival of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), providing more than $275 billion to fund forgivable loans to qualified businesses hard hit by the coronavirus. The loan limit is $2 million, and businesses qualify based on their average monthly payroll in 2019, multiplied by 2.5 (or 3.5 if a qualifying restaurant or food-related business). This permits a business to secure a loan of up to 2.5 times its monthly payroll expenses. For example, if an employer had a monthly payroll of $100,000 in 2019, the business would qualify for a $250,000 loan. A qualifying restaurant or food business with a monthly payroll of $100,000 could qualify for a $350,000 loan.

Applications for first-time PPP applicants began January 11, 2021, through community financial institutions. Other financial institutions will begin taking applications later. Second Draw PPP loan applications began Wednesday, January 13, 2021, through community financial institutions only. 

To be eligible for a Second Draw PPP loan, a small business must have 300 or fewer employees – down from a 500-employee maximum in the prior program. Businesses have 24 weeks to use the funds, which can go toward payroll as well as rent or mortgage expenses.

Additional program details are available through a U.S. Small Business Administration office or participating institutions.

While we all await a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it’s important to remember that the ACA remains in force – and it continues to affect employers in California and nationwide.

Here are the ACA requirements that may affect your business in 2021:

Employer Mandate

The employer mandate in the ACA requires Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) to offer Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) to their full-time employees and eligible dependents. An ALE is a business with at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, on average during the prior calendar year.

If you are an ALE, and you fail to offer your eligible employees “affordable” coverage that provides minimum value to 95% of your full-time employees and their children (up to the end of eligibility when they turn age 26), you are subject to ACA penalties.

California Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) Individual Mandate

The Minimum Essential California (MEC) Individual Mandate, which started in 2020, requires California residents to have qualifying health insurance for all months of the year, obtain an exemption to have insurance, or pay a fine to the California Franchise Tax Board when taxes are filed.

MEC can be employer-sponsored coverage, Individual and Family Plan (IFP) coverage, Medicare, or Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California), etc.

Federal Minimum Essential Coverage

Under the ACA, qualifying Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) can be any of the following:

All ACA-compliant health plans have to include coverage for 10 Essential Health Benefits (EHBs):

No Mandate for Non-ALEs

If your business is not an ALE, there’s no requirement that you offer ACA-compliant health coverage to your employees. (If you’re not sure whether your business is an ALE, ask your employee benefits or insurance broker, or access the Employer Shared Responsibility Provision Estimator on the IRS website.)

Many times, regardless of group size, employers offer employee health benefits to help them attract and retain workers. While the unemployment rate is higher today than a year ago due to the impact of the coronavirus, [health insurance or unemployment???] rates are expected to decline as businesses reopen and hiring resumes. Employee health insurance can help you differentiate yourself as an employer, keep your employees happy, and offer you tax advantages, too. Businesses can generally deduct expenses for providing health insurance to employees and dependents on both their state and federal taxes.

In the 10 years since the ACA became law, the number of Californians without health insurance has declined dramatically. The rate of uninsured residents in California reached 12.4% in 2010 during the Great Recession, as compared to 7.2% in 2018.

Among those with health insurance, a majority get their coverage through their employer. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of 2019 data, California is among the states with the highest number of individuals with employer-sponsored health insurance: 18.3 million Californians, or 47% of those with health insurance.

Shopping and Comparing Plans

If you are interested in comparing the employee benefits options available in your area, one of the best ways to do so is to talk with a broker. The services are typically available free of cost, and consulting one can actually save you money.

That’s because a local broker will know your local marketplace, the HMO, PPO, and other options available, health care providers that are part of each health plan’s network, and the available value-added benefits.

If you do not have a broker, we can help you find one here.

In the weeks surrounding the November 3, 2020, election, many discussed what could happen under the new Biden/Harris administration. President Joe Biden was, after all, second-in-command during the Obama administration when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was developed and first enacted.

According to health care policy experts interviewed by Fierce Healthcare, the new administration could move to shore up the ACA exchanges. That might include a change in subsidy eligibility, so more people qualify for tax credits that reduce their out-of-pocket premium cost. Changes could also include resumed funding for marketing of the federal and state exchanges, which was reduced by 90% in the past several years, as was funding for ACA navigators who assist with enrollments.

The Biden tax credit proposal put forth during the 2020 campaign would save nearly all current federal and state marketplace enrollees hundreds of dollars monthly – and likely push more into the individual marketplace, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In the final weeks of the Trump administration, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced several changes governing public health insurance exchanges, some of which are slated to begin this year and in 2022. While the Biden team may maintain some of the recent CMS alterations – like lower user fees – it may act to roll back others. That includes state waivers to test new options for their exchange populations and to collaborate with private firms to create “next generation exchanges.” Georgia has already received approval to transition from the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM), www.healthcare.gov, to a state access model that enrolls consumers in coverage through private web brokers or directly with carriers.

The return of the Individual Mandate is likely to be reconsidered by Congress and the White House. You may recall that changes in 2017 eliminated the mandate as part of a GOP tax bill. That helped set up the legal challenge to the ACA, which is still being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. (The assertion made is that the ACA is invalid in whole because the tax penalty for not having coverage is now zero.) A ruling could come any day – or as late as June 2021. Some analysts have suggested that immediate action by Congress could make the legal challenge moot.

The new administration could use executive power to undo the expanded availability of limited duration health plans enacted by President Trump. Federal laws currently allow for up to 36 months of non-ACA-compliant, short-term health care coverage. These plans are considered by some to be “junk” because of their limited coverage, pre-existing condition limits, or dollar amount caps on what’s included, which is why the California legislature banned limited duration plans as of 2019.

Renewed efforts to reduce prescription drug pricing is likely. According to reporting by NBC’s “Meet the Press” blog, President Biden could repeal existing law that bans Medicare from negotiating with drug manufacturers. His administration may also act to limit future price increases and push for competition among drugs that currently lack it.

While there was some advocacy by Democrats for a Medicare-like public option during the primary campaign, that seems far less likely now for a couple of reasons. While Sen. Kamala Harris was a proponent (before becoming Vice President), President Biden has always been less enthusiastic. Democrats have only a razor-thin edge in the U.S. Senate (50/50), with the new Vice President tipping the scale in the event of a tie vote. It’s important for the Biden/Harris team to push for proposals that can attract bi-partisan support.

COVID-19 was a top issue for voters in November, and a different approach to the pandemic is expected this year. According to the transition team, Biden and Harris have a seven-point plan to combat COVID-19, including:

  1. Access to regular, reliable, and free testing
  2. Increases in the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  3. Evidence-based guidance of how communities can navigate the pandemic
  4. Equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines
  5. Increased protections for older and higher-risk individuals
  6. New defenses for predicting, preventing, and mitigating pandemic threats
  7. Mask mandates nationwide

During the week of January 11, then President-elect Biden announced a new $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that includes planned investments in supplies for financially strapped hospitals, increased funding for vaccines and testing, as well as money to expand PPE manufacturing in the U.S.

Stay tuned to this blog for further updates as ideas turn into legislation and proposals work their way through the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

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.

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.