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Californians shopping for health insurance through the state's new marketplace will have a dozen options to choose from, officials announced Wednesday.

Covered California, the insurance exchange created under the new federal health care law, announced a list of insurance firms that have signed contracts to sell health plans on the exchange. The list includes major players like Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente as well as smaller companies like Molina Healthcare and Chinese Community Health Plan.

Six of those firms will also offer insurance through the Small Business Health Options Program, a program aimed at helping small businesses offer insurance to employees.

Unlike Republican-led states that have resisted implementing the health care law, California has moved to erect a marketplace and passed legislation that will enroll in more than a million new Medi-Cal customers.

It solicited competitive bids and negotiated with insurers on the plans to be offered through Covered California, where consumers will be able to comparison shop for health plans - for lower-income Californians, with the help of a government subsidy. Wednesday's announcement marked the next step toward Covered California enrollment, which begins Oct. 1.

California in May unveiled the costs for premiums under the new marketplace. Since then, state regulators have reviewed proposed rates and benefits to be offered.

"This is what was necessary to put everything in place, and now the computer programmers can put these options into the portal that will be available in about 50 days," said Anthony Wright, executive director of the organization Health Access California.

The firms that will participate in Covered California are Alameda Alliance for Health, Anthem Blue Cross of California, Blue Shield of California, Chinese Community Health Plan, Contra Costa Health Plan, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, L.A. Care Health Plan, Molina Healthcare, Sharp Health Plan, Valley Health Plan and Western Health Advantage.

The small business program will offer plans from Blue Shield of California, Chinese Community Health Plan, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, Sharp Health Plan and Western Health Advantage.

PHOTO: Executive Director of Covered California, Peter V. Lee addresses the media as California's health exchange held a news conference to announce how much it will cost to buy premiums under the new federal health care program in the state, at the California Museum, Thursday, May 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.



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