California Small Business Exchange Up & Running, Unlike Delayed Federal Exchange

by David Gorn

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Covered California officials yesterday said the state's small business exchange has 1,500 applications in progress and is successfully online, as well -- unlike the recently delayed federal small-business exchange site.

"We are up and running and open for business," Covered California executive director Peter Lee said.

About 1,500 employers have set up accounts with the Small-Business Health Options Program -- or SHOP -- since enrollment opened Oct. 1, Lee said.

That includes an option for online registration, as well, which launched last week. California's website success stands in stark contrast to the recent federal announcement that the launch of the national small business health insurance exchange website will be delayed for a year.

"We have SHOP enrollment now online, a month before small businesses have coverage take effect," Lee said. "We look forward to growing this program in the weeks and months to come."

Lee said exchange staff estimate about 7,000 small-business owners will enroll in SHOP by the end of 2014.

Business owners can sign up for coverage throughout the year, Lee said. They are not subject to the time-limit restriction of the individual market open enrollment period.

Employers may qualify for a federal tax credit to help pay employee premiums if insurance is purchased through the exchange. Lee used the example of a beauty shop with 10 full-time employees and total wages of $250,000. If those business owners purchase insurance through SHOP, Lee said, they might be eligible for $35,000 in tax credits.


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