Officials say the number of applications completed for Covered California has reached 10,000 a day, and now it appears it is about to get even busier.
At a news conference outside the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, Covered California officially launched full self-enrollment in its small-business health options program, called SHOP.
Small businesses with less than 50 eligible employees can get coverage for their employees as early as Jan. 1, along with everybody else.
"You're going to have three health plans that are statewide offering options: Kaiser Permanente, Blue Shield and Health Net, but then also supplemented by some of the best regional health plans in the state," said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.
The Small Business Majority organization regards the announcement of SHOP as excellent news.
"For the first time ever, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are able to band together when buying coverage -- giving them the kind of purchasing clout large businesses enjoy," said John Arensmeyer said in a statement.
And the L.A. Chamber of Commerce agrees.
"Providing quality, affordable health care coverage to employees can help save money for employers and save money to the health care system overall," said Ruben Gonzalez, L.A. Chamber of Commerce vice president of public policy and political affairs.
And there's another way to save: Some small-business owners may qualify for a federal tax credit if they contribute toward employee premiums.
To qualify the business must have:
- Fewer than 25 full-time employees for the tax year
- Pay employees an average of less than $50,000 per year
- And contribute at least 50 percent of their employees' premium cost
"California is moving forward, and we are not impacted by the federal government's decision to delay its online small-business insurance marketplace till 2014," said Lee. "We've planned for this day, we've tested for this day, and we're ready and open for business."
SHOP is a second health care marketplace in California, separate from the one for individuals.
It should also be pointed out that small businesses are not required to buy health insurance for their employees through SHOP or anywhere else; it's completely voluntary.