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Latina Small Business Owner Enters the Insurance Marketplace

Under the Affordable Care Act Sandra Lopez, 41, owner of Las Fajitas in Newport Beach, obtained health insurance for the first time since arriving in the U.S. in 1990. (Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

Under the Affordable Care Act Sandra Lopez, 41, owner of Las Fajitas in Newport Beach, obtained health insurance for the first time since arriving in the U.S. in 1990. (Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

By Heidi de Marco, Kaiser Health News

Alongside one of Newport Beach’s canals, blocks from the beach, Sandra Lopez is finally living her idea of the American dream.

For years Lopez took home remedies or asked friends to bring her medicine from Mexico.
In 1996, six years after crossing the border from Mexico without papers, she began working at Las Fajitas, a popular Mexican restaurant as a cashier and cook. With the help of her boss, she received a work visa in 2001.

Eleven years after that, she bought the business – a bustling establishment where Lopez knows most customers by name. Mexican lanterns hang from the ceiling, and cheers from a soccer match on TV fill the room.

Lopez, now a legal resident, said the income from her small business fluctuates monthly. “People think that because you own a business, you have lots of money…that life is easy,” she said. “But it’s hard work and I have so many bills to pay.” Continue reading

Covered California Sets Plans, Premiums for Small Business Marketplace

Health Insurance

(Getty Images)

Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, announced plans and premiums for its Small Business Health Options Program — or SHOP — Thursday afternoon. Six health insurers were selected for the marketplace. While some are regional insurers only, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said businesses in many parts of California should have a choice of four or more plans.

Lee said rates for the plans, starting in 2014, will be comparable with current rates or “in many cases” lower than they are now. “With the SHOP program,” Lee told reporters in a conference call, “we’re offering … a combination of choice and standard benefits for small businesses to offer (health insurance) on par with what large employers do, but without paying additional fees. This is a game leveler.”

Lee noted that small businesses — defined as fewer than 50 employees — are not required to provide health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. But businesses that wish to provide insurance may be eligible for subsidies to purchase it. That subsidy is available now. It’s currently 35 percent and goes up to 50 percent of the premium on Jan. 1. Small business owners who want to take advantage must purchase health insurance through the SHOP marketplace. Continue reading