Small business owners in California who are looking for more affordable insurance options received some good news this week. California’s new health insurance marketplace—Covered California—announced Monday that the online enrollment portal for small businesses is now open. Online enrollment previously experienced delays, but small business owners can now enroll online for an insurance plan through the state’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). This is a critical step forward to ensuring small business owners have a convenient option for finding an affordable and comprehensive insurance plan that fits their needs and budget.

Health insurance marketplaces are the most important component of the Affordable Care Act for small businesses. 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. SHOP also offers businesses more competitive choices, which can help lower premium costs, thus improving their bottom line. With online enrollment now available, Covered California serves as a one-stop shop where entrepreneurs can more easily find the right plan for their employees and themselves. To view options and select a plan, small employers should visit the site to create an account, fill out and submit some basic information about themselves and their businesses, and then shop for a plan that best meets their needs.

The self-employed also have the option to shop for more affordable coverage through Covered California’s individual marketplace. This is huge, given there are 2.8 million self-employed people in California, and a whopping 700,000 of these entrepreneurs are currently uninsured.

Small business owners have been waiting for decades for something to help bring down their costs, and exchanges have the ability to do that. It’s imperative that California entrepreneurs visit the site right now to view their options and enroll in a plan that makes the most sense for themselves and their employees.

To help small businesses navigate the enrollment process, Small Business Majority is going to great lengths to inform owners about the exchanges and everything in the law that impacts them. Last week, we launched the California Health Coverage Guide, a new website that walks California small business owners through Covered California’s small business marketplace and provides resources that will help them begin the enrollment process. In addition, we’re holding countless seminars to educate small businesses about the Affordable Care Act.

Our primary mission is to prepare each and every entrepreneur for implementation of this law. That way, instead of worrying about health insurance, they can do what they do best: run the companies that make up the backbone of our state and our nation. To get the full, comprehensive list of all of our events in California regarding the health exchange, please visit our California outreach calendar.