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People are accustomed to making choices every day based on their personal preferences and individual tastes — from what they wear and drive to the restaurants they frequent. With the “individualization” of the market (think Amazon, Netflix, and DoorDash), more and more industries are serving up options to stay relevant in a world where choice isn’t just a nice to have, but the expectation.

It should come as no surprise that the health insurance industry is not immune to these expectations. In the past, employees were limited to a single health insurance option (selected by the employer) that did not necessarily address their individual needs. However, that model is quickly becoming a thing of the past and the private health exchange is leading the way.

What is a Private Health Exchange?

A private health insurance exchange gives employees access to multiple health plans through a single program. It enables you and your staff to individually shop, compare, and enroll in an array of coverage options and receive one bill for all of your employees’ insurance.

Many people became acquainted with insurance “exchanges” when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in 2010. The ACA created a national public health exchange and established the framework for states to take part or create their own state-run exchanges. California was among the first group of states with a state-run exchange.

However, California small businesses have been able to choose coverage through a private health exchange since 1996, when CaliforniaChoice opened its doors. The Word & Brown Companies’ co-founders John Word and Rusty Brown created the state’s first private health exchange and modeled it after large group and government employee insurance programs offering enrollees access to multiple health plans.

Choice Matters to Employees

Today’s workforce is dramatically different from the past. It’s fairly common to find a business with employees ranging in age from 20-somethings to baby boomers. Also, on the rise is workplace diversity of gender, religion, race, ethnicity, cultural background, sexual orientation, and language.

With so much to consider, it can be a challenge for employers to provide health insurance to an employee population with such variance. For example, the preferences and needs of an older, married employee are going to be vastly different than those of a younger, single person who is just starting out in the workforce.

An exchange program gives employees a way to find coverage that best fits their health care needs and budget. One employee might select a PPO because of a particular doctor or hospital in the PPO’s network. Another employee who rarely visits the doctor might choose a HMO. A third employee might select an EPO (Exclusive Provider Organization) plan because it has a slightly lower premium, but offers direct access to in-network specialists without a Primary Care Physician referral. A fourth employee might choose a Health Savings Account-compatible plan due to cost and tax considerations.

It is your employees’ choice when you offer them access to a private health exchange.

Cost Control for Your Business

In addition to offering you streamlined administration and one bill for all of your employees’ health coverage, a private exchange program also offers you the ability to control your employee benefits cost. The CaliforniaChoice exchange lets you set your own budget for benefits using Defined Contribution.

You decide what you want to contribute to your employees’ benefits. You can select between a Fixed Percentage (50% to 100%) of a specific plan and/or benefit, or a Fixed Dollar Amount for each employee. Employees then apply your contribution to whatever health plan and benefits they prefer. If employees selects a plan that costs more than your contribution, they simply pay the difference.

When you renew, you have the option to adjust your premium contribution – up or down – giving you complete control over your benefits cost for another 12 months.

Finding Coverage That’s Right for Everyone

Offering a greater level of choice to your employees — without increasing your cost as compared to a single health plan solution — sets a private health exchange apart from other health insurance options. It also gives your business a recruiting advantage and a powerful tool to retain your current employees.

If you have an employee benefits agent, ask about a private exchange quote for your business. If you’re not currently working with a benefits professional, go here to find a licensed expert in your area.

It’s no secret that Californians identify as being unique. From what we wear to what we drive, we take pride in standing out from the crowd. So, why should choosing health care be any different?

At CaliforniaChoice we celebrate your differences because we’re different, too. We believe there are five distinct advantages that make the CaliforniaChoice health insurance exchange unique among other companies in the market.

Greater employee choice

In the past, businesses have been limited to a single option for all employees. With CaliforniaChoice, you can offer coverage options from eight different health plans: Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, Oscar Health, Sharp Health Plan, Sutter Health Plus, and Western Health Advantage.

More importantly, employees can choose their coverage option based on the 84,355 unique individual health care providers and 389 unique hospitals across the state. With so many choices, you and your employees have the ability to find a plan that best fits your individual or family health care needs.

How does this work in practice? One of your employees might select a PPO because of its doctor and hospital network. Another employee, who is looking for a lower copay, might select an HMO. A third employee might select an Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) plan, because it offers a lower premium, but still includes access to specialists without a Primary Care Physician referral. A fourth employee might like the tax advantages of a Health Saving Account-compatible plan.

With CaliforniaChoice, it’s their choice – and you get a single bill for all employees’ coverage.

Cost control

Being able to offer more choices to your employees is great, but what about cost? We have you covered there, too. Working with your broker and using Defined Contribution, you decide the amount you want to spend on your employees’ health insurance benefits. You can choose a Fixed Dollar Amount or a Fixed Percentage Amount toward a specific plan or benefit level.

Your employees use your contribution as a voucher toward the cost of the coverage they like best. If an employee chooses a plan that costs more than your contribution, he or she simply pays the difference.

Plus, your contribution is locked-in for 12 months, and you have the option to adjust it – up or down – at your renewal.

Decision-support tools

One crucial feature of CaliforniaChoice is the Smart Decision Technology that makes choosing health plans as easy as an Amazon search. There are several tools to help you and your employees find the health plan that best matches your individual or family health care needs.

  • Automated Choice Profiler: Users can compare premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses to get an estimated total cost of coverage. You can view side-by-side plan comparisons based on costs and quality.
  • Online Provider Search: We make it simple to find your preferred doctor. Just search by location, doctor’s name, hospital affiliation, or language(s) spoken. Now you can know in advance whether your doctor is part of the health plans you’re considering
  • Online Rx Search: You can match your prescription drug needs to available CaliforniaChoice plans. It’s easy to look up medications alphabetically, by brand or generic drug name, therapeutic classification, or health condition.

Online enrollment

Online enrollment is the easiest and most efficient way for your employees to enroll in their health plans. Transitioning to online enrollment will drastically improve the enrollment and renewal process for you and your employees.

Online enrollment speeds up plan comparisons, minimizes pending items, and reduces your overall case approval time. It also helps you track employee responses and identify those who have not yet enrolled. Because it includes built-in safeguards, online enrollment reduces errors and legibility issues, too, as well as the risk of personal information theft or loss.

Since benefits information is shared in the same way with all enrollees, there is reduced confusion – so you are likely to receive fewer questions. Online enrollment simplifies enrollment and makes the process more convenient for your entire organization.

Value-added perks

CaliforniaChoice offers great health coverage for you and your employees, but it also delivers value-added benefits you won’t find elsewhere.

For eligible groups, our Business Solutions Suite offers additional perks at no cost:

  • Premium Only Plan that allows employees to pay their share of premiums with pre-tax dollars – as well as a Flexible Spending Account that lets them put aside a portion of their earnings on a pre-tax basis to pay for eligible health care expenses.
  • HR support powered by Mammoth HR, with alerts on regulatory changes affecting your business, training on topics like benefits and Workers’ Compensation, and customizable forms, job descriptions, and an employee handbook.
  • COBRA participant invoicing, premium collection and remittance, payment tracking and processing of eligibility changes for non-payment, too.

You and your employees will both appreciate the steep discounts available through the Member Value Suite:

  • Savings on movie tickets, theme parks, sporting events, travel, retail, and more through a free Cal Perks membership.
  • Discounts up to 57% on Garmin® , Vitamix® , and Fitbit® products as well as a fitness center membership for just $25 a month through the ChooseHealthyTM program.
  • EyeMed Vision One Eyecare discounts on frames, lenses, and eye exams at participating LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears, and Target locations.
  • Up to 80% off brand name and generic prescription drugs with the California Rx Card.
  • Savings of up to 50% on hearing aids, tests, batteries and other devices through the EPIC Hearing Service Plan.

Get Help from an Agent

To learn more about what makes CaliforniaChoice the right choice – for your business and your employees – talk with your health insurance agent. If you do not already have an agent, you can search for one here.

We put together this Group Health Insurance FAQ as a helpful guide for companies looking to start offering group health insurance plans to their employees.

Here’s just a preview of what you’ll find inside:

  • Common questions from businesses like yours about group health insurance and the CaliforniaChoice program
  • Answers to questions about managing the cost of offering health insurance coverage
  • Information on group health insurance eligibility and requirements
  • Insights on the benefits of offering group health coverage
  • Tips for allowing your employees to pick a health plan that works best for their needs

Download your copy today!

CaliforniaChoice Takes Your Digital Security Seriously

Cyberattacks and information security breaches are on the rise in today’s high tech and data-driven environment. The list of examples goes on at length.

In July 2017, it was discovered that an Equifax data breach exposed the names, birth dates, Social Security Numbers, and credit card information for 147.9 million consumers. In September 2018, Marriot International had data stolen on approximately 500 million customers. More worrying, the Marriot breaches started in 2014 and were not discovered for four years.

Security magazine reports 2.8 billion consumer data records were exposed in 2018, costing U.S. organizations more than $654 billion. Health care was the hardest hit sector – with 48% of all breaches. Among the most high profile health care breaches are the 2015 Anthem, Inc. hack that affected nearly 80 million people and a breach at Premera, which impacted Blue Cross and Blue Shield members in 30 states.

Data protection is serious business. Companies who want to earn and maintain the trust of customers must be willing to invest in security products to protect consumer data. CaliforniaChoice is committed to preventing breaches in security as is reflected in the recent certification from HITRUST, the most prestigious certifiable security framework for the health care industry.

The HITRUST CSF Certification is the benchmark that organizations required to safeguard Personal Health Information (PHI) are measured against regarding information protection. By taking the steps necessary to obtain HITRUST CSF Certified status, CHOICE Administrators has distinguished itself as an organization that people can count on to keep their information safe. This achievement places the companyin an elite group of organizations worldwide that have earned this certification.

You and your employees can take comfort in knowing your personal information is secure with CaliforniaChoice and CHOICE Administrators.

There has been a lot of talk about a push by some of the presidential candidates to move toward a “Medicare for All” health care plan. Many of the Democratic candidates back a version of the proposal put forth by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Other are supporting less-sweeping alternatives. Let’s look at how Sen. Sanders’ proposal and others might affect employer-sponsored health insurance and health care in the United States.

As proposed, Sen. Sanders’ plan would create a government-run system to provide health insurance for all Americans. His latest proposal goes beyond a prior bill he introduced to establish a single-payer system and would cover essential health treatments with no premiums or deductibles. It would also include long-term care for people with disabilities and coverage for dental and vision. Sanders has 14 co-sponsors for his bill, including fellow senators and Democratic presidential candidates Cory Booker (MA), Kamala Harris (CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), and Elizabeth Warren (MA), although Sen. Harris has recently announced her own plan as well.

Sen. Sanders’ proposal would eliminate existing public health programs – and private health insurance in the U.S. after a four-year transition period. Insurers could offer supplemental plans to cover items not included under Medicare coverage, such as cosmetic surgery. Some current programs operated under federal authority, like the Veterans Health Administration and Indian Health Services, would be maintained.

While Senator Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have voiced full support for a single-payer system, many of the other Democratic candidates have proposed alternative plans for health care. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) says she favors a “public option” that builds on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health measure signed into law in 2010 during President Barack Obama’s first term. Former Vice President Joe Biden also supports broadening the ACA, in contrast to moving toward a Medicare for all system. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg supports a hybrid proposal, “Medicare for All who want it.”

Although not a candidate for president, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) is advocating a more modest Medicare for All proposal. Her House of Representatives bill, with 112 Democratic co-sponsors, expands access to Medicare and Medicaid without actually ending private health insurance in the way the Sanders bill does. 

The Potential Costs

A 2018 study by RAND Corporation, an American nonprofit global policy think tank, estimated Medicare for All would dramatically increase federal spending on health care – bumping it up from $1.09 trillion annually to $3.5 trillion under a single-payer plan. Insurance and health care industry groups have joined forces to form an umbrella group, the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, to oppose Medicare for All. The group says that since private insurers typically pay more than Medicare does, a move to reduced provider payments under a single-payer system could negatively affect care and reduce the number of available doctors and specialists.

Loss of Employer Coverage

Employer-sponsored health insurance could go away if Medicare for All or another proposal is adopted in the future. Of course, it all depends on who wins the races for the White House, Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives. Since some candidates favor a mix of public and private insurance, it is a waiting game at this point.

Private insurance potentially could shift to supplemental-only coverage, something that works in several countries with universal health coverage. For example, in the United Kingdom, the number of people buying private medical insurance has risen significantly in the past decade. Canadians can also buy private insurance to pay costs not covered by the country’s public health plan.

Even if a Medicare for All proposal did pass the Congress and was signed into law by a newly elected president, a transition period would likely need to be negotiated, since about 155 million people in America receive their health coverage through their employer. Right now, the majority of those with coverage through their jobs say they are satisfied with their plans. They could be unhappy if they’re required to give it up to move to a government-sponsored health program.

Stay Tuned

Health care is an important issue – for employers and employees. We will continue to follow what’s happening in the health insurance industry and on the political front, and will share updates. You can also talk with your employee benefits agent about proposals to change the way Americans get their health care. If you don’t already have a health insurance agent, you can search for one here.

Unless you’re an insurance industry veteran or a health insurance agent, you might be wondering, What exactly is a defined contribution employee benefit plan?! More than just a mouthful to say, a defined contribution employee benefit plan allows companies to offer employees a full spectrum of insurance coverage that includes health , dental, vision, life, chiropractic and in some cases even more benefit options.

The defined contribution aspect of the plan gives business owners and managers the ability to choose how much they contribute toward the costs of their employees’ coverage. Groups typically like defined contribution because they can choose a fixed dollar amount or a fixed percentage (like 50%) of the cost for the lowest-priced plan. Plus, the amount they contribute is tax deductible for their business.

In order to help groups select the right defined contribution plan we created a guide ( available for download below) that includes some helpful tips to consider when searching for an employee benefit plan. The guide highlights some key factors to consider when plan shopping, including:

  • How to determine your contribution budget
  • Tips for health plan shopping
  • Choosing your coverage start date
  • Deciding who gets coverage (Employees only or Employees + dependents )
  • Which coverage types you should include
  • Tips on finding and working with a health insurance agent
  • And much more!

Download your copy today!

If you find small business employee benefits and health insurance difficult to understand, you’re not alone. Choosing the right employee benefits program for your small business can have a huge impact on your bottom line. We can help!

We’re hosting a Small Business Employee Benefits Seminar on Thursday, August 1st, at 11:00 a.m., at Andrei’s Restaurant in Irvine.

You’ll get answers to frequently asked small business employee benefits questions:

  • Are you required to offer employee health insurance?
  • What’s ahead in California? Are requirements changing for small businesses?
  • What will employee health insurance cost your business?
  • Should you choose employee-only coverage – or coverage for employees and dependents?
  • What are your options? One carrier? Multiple carriers?
  • What about Dental, Vision, and other coverage?
 

CaliforniaChoice Small Business Employee Benefits Seminar + Lunch

Andrei’s Restaurant
2607 Main Street
| Irvine, CA 92614 

Thursday, August 1
11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

 

At CaliforniaChoice, we’re committed to helping you and your employees make educated decisions about your health benefits. We’ve created several tools to help you gain a better understanding of health insurance and get acquainted with the CaliforniaChoice program.

 

Program Highlights

This flyer describes the key components of the CaliforniaChoice multi-carrier, private health insurance exchange for small business. It features a quick overview of “Why CaliforniaChoice?,” calling out special benefits such as:

  • Eight health plans in one program
  • Cost control
  • Optional benefits
  • Single source administration
  • Smart Decision Technology tools
  • Value-adds through the Business Solutions Suite and the Member Value Suite
  • Payroll solutions

Download the CaliforniaChoice Program Highlights here.

 

Employer Videos

We’ve created a variety of short videos to help you better understand the benefits of CaliforniaChoice. Each video addresses different components of our program, including:

An Introduction to CaliforniaChoice

With access to eight of California’s leading health insurance carriers and plans – plus optional benefits like Dental, Vision, and Chiro – CaliforniaChoice combines everything you need into one program. It also gives employers like you more time to spend on your business and less time worrying about employee benefits.

 

Multiple Options, One Program

Get an overview of how CaliforniaChoice offers employees HMO, PPO, EPO, HSA, and other options to find the coverage that works best for their individual or family needs.

 

Cost Control

Defined Contribution makes it easy to control your costs because you choose what amount you want to contribute to employee benefits.

 

Health Insurance Plans

Employees choose the CaliforniaChoice coverage that best meets their needs and budget. One employee might choose a PPO, while another selects an HMO, EPO, Health Care Service Plan (HSP), or Health Savings Account (HSA) qualified coverage. It’s their choice.

 

Ease of Administration

Similar to the way you may bundle your phone, cable, and Internet at work or home, CaliforniaChoice bundles dozens of HMO, PPO, EPO, HSP, and HSA options for your employees. We then send you one consolidated bill for all employees’ coverage at the end of the month.

 

Additional Plans and Perks

CaliforniaChoice offers more than Medical benefits. Our program includes Dental, Vision, Chiropractic, and Life Insurance plus valuable savings on other products and services through our Member Value Suite and Business Solutions Suite.

 

Broker Model

When you work with a broker, you get an industry expert dedicated to helping you make the right health insurance decisions for your business. Even better, there is no cost to you.

 

Fast Facts

This informative guide provides additional details on CaliforniaChoice, including information on:

  • Access to care through eight leading health plans
  • Controlling business costs through Defined Contribution
  • Optional benefits: Dental, Vision, Chiropractic and Acupuncture, and Life and AD&D
  • Streamlined enrollment and renewal
  • Smart Decision Technology: Online Provider Search, Online Rx Search, Online Enrollment, and our Automated Choice Profiler with side-by-side plan comparisons and cost estimators
  • No-cost extras available through our Member Value Suite and Business Solutions Suite

Click here to download the Fast Facts brochure.

 

Learn More About CaliforniaChoice

To learn more about the CaliforniaChoice program and the benefits available to you and your employees, contact your broker.

 
NEED AN AGENT?
 

No matter the size of your business, you should consider making team-building part of your company culture. The time spent away from the office is shown to improve communication, boost morale, and promote creativity and collaboration.

  • Better communication: Team building requires employees to communicate successfully and work together to achieve a common goal.
  • Improved employee morale: When employees’ feel their thoughts and ideas are being considered, it helps build a better connection across all levels of the organization and increases morale. It also breaks down barriers between leadership and employees.
  • Promotes creativity and collaborative problem solving: If your employees can work together and think outside the box when dealing with a challenge, they will build connections that can benefit your organization in the future.
  • Fun for all (with the right activity): Team building can be fun, as long as the selected activity does not put any employees at a disadvantage or makes them feel embarrassed in any way. Read this Forbes article to make sure you understand the potential downsides of team building.

Here are five easy and inexpensive team-building ideas for your business.

 

1. Scavenger Hunt

This is a great option for multiple small groups. Depending on your work environment, you can have the hunt onsite or at a nearby location like a shopping center. Tasks can include taking a selfie with a stranger (possibly dressed in specific attire – like a hat) or photographing an object in the office or neighborhood. Make a list, set a deadline for task completion, and whatever team completes the most items on the list first wins.

 

2. Possibilities Game

The idea behind this game is for team members to talk and come up with potential new uses for common office items like a stapler or letter opener. Then, a member of the team must present the new use to the larger group without speaking, while others guess what’s being presented.

 

3. Truth or Lie?

Each person secretly writes down two truths and one lie about himself/herself. The objective is for the lie to be believable rather than over the top. Then you go around the group and share your tales, trying to determine which is real and which is not for each employee. It’s the perfect opportunity for your team members to learn more about one another.

Another variation on this game is “Who Is It?, where employees write down a fact about themselves, put it in a box and then draw out the facts and attempt to figure out to whom it applies in the group. The team with the most accurate guesses wins. You can also deduct points for wrong guesses.

 

4. Best Moments

Ask your team members to think about the best moments from their lives. This can be something achieved on their own (like running a marathon), an event or accomplishment they’ve shared with others (like a personal or professional achievement or event), or an exciting life adventure (like hang-gliding, getting married or taking part in a friend’s or relative’s wedding in an exotic locale, whatever).

After a couple of minutes, ask everyone to consider what 30 seconds in life they would want to relive if given the opportunity. This allows individuals to look back on their lives and share some moments with co-workers who may not know them well. Your facilitator can ask everyone why they chose that particular event and moment.

 

5. Escape Room

You can take your team off-site to a venue designed just for this purpose, or you can hire a firm to come in and create an escape room, murder mystery, or other themed event at your worksite. The concept presents your team members with puzzles they must solve in order to “find the key” or otherwise escape the venue. If they reach the time limit for the game, they are set free whether they have found the key or not. Escape rooms are popular for team building because they require workers to collaborate to find the exit or solve the mystery.

These are just a few ideas to help get you started. Whatever activities you choose, team building can help you foster a highly motivated, positive corporate environment that pays off big in the end.

The National Research Business Institute says that more than three-quarters of large employers (79%) have an employee wellness program of some type. Across the broader workplace, the percentage of employers offering a wellness program is close to half, according to the 2018 Aflac WorkForces Report, as reported by Small Business Trends in January 2019.

So, what steps should you consider if you want to implement a wellness program for your organization? Here are our five suggestions.

  1. Ask Your Employees

Employee feedback is critical to establishing a successful wellness program. Survey your employees to get their perspective. You’ll discover what they consider most valuable. As a starting point, wellness programs could include onsite classes, discounted gym memberships, and discounts on fitness gear such as Fitbits®.

  1. Start Slow

While you may have big ideas about what you want your program to do, it is best to start small. You want a program that is inviting for all employees and easy to understand. Make sure you consider everyone in your workforce when developing your program. That may include specific features designed to appeal to different segments of your employee population: women, men, younger and older workers, etc.

  1. Education is Important

Providing useful wellness information to your employees can help them take charge of their health. Talk with your health insurance agent to find out what information might be available from your health plan(s) that you can post onsite or include in regular staff communications. Consider a lunch-and-learn or health fair to share information or introduce employees to stress reduction techniques, health screening resources, fitness classes, or other opportunities available in your area. 

  1. Healthier Food Choices

If you have onsite restaurants, cafés, or food trucks, talk with the operators about adding a “healthy choice” to their daily menus. If you have vending machines managed by an outside firm, talk with the vendor about replacing some of the sugary drinks and empty-calorie foods with healthier options.

  1. Consider Walk-and-Talk Meetings or a Rewards Program

There are several out-of-the-box ideas you can implement in your workplace. “Standing desks” are increasingly popular. Having walking meetings can work for some managers and employees. You might also consider a rewards program or a prize drawing for employees who take part in charity walks or weight-loss clinics.

Health Plan Wellness Options

Supporting healthier employees can reduce workplace illness and absences, boost morale, and increase productivity. Many health plans offer wellness activities, education, and resources to help employees get and stay healthy. Talk to your employee benefits agent to find out what’s available to you. If you are not currently working with an agent, you can search for one here.