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Life Health > Health Insurance > Health Insurance

California exchange pulls group site

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Paper is beating digital at the California small-group health insurance exchange division.

Officials at Covered California said they are shutting down their Small Business Health Options Program website while they redesign it.

The SHOP division has been taking applications on paper, and it will continue to do so while the exchange is overhauling the SHOP site.

The SHOP site “is projected to be back online in the fall of 2014,” the exchange said Wednesday.

Small businesses in California can buy exchange plans through a SHOP call center and through certified exchange agents. 

Covered California enrolled 571 groups with 4,490 enrollees in exchange plans from Oct. 1, when open enrollment began, through Jan. 31. The exchange is processing 200 more applications for employers with about 1,200 plan enrollees.

Current Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act rules call for individual open enrollment to end March 31. The SHOP system has no open enrollment period. Employers can set up a SHOP plan at any of the year.

Thousands of producers have signed up to be Covered California agents, but some have suggested that the exchange might undermine them to help its own sales representatives, enrollment assisters and others crowd agents out.

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said the state-based exchange wants to get advice from exchange agents about how to improve the SHOP website.

“Certified insurance agents are critical partners in SHOP,” Lee said.

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