Health Insurance Marketplaces: Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP)

The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace helps businesses provide health coverage to their employees.

For 2016, the SHOP Marketplace is open to employers with 50 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees (FTEs), while some states may use different employee maximums for 2016. If you have fewer than 25 employees, you may qualify for tax credits if you buy insurance through SHOP.

If you’re self-employed with no employees, you can get coverage through the individual market Health Insurance Marketplace, but not through SHOP.

Benefits of the SHOP Marketplace

  • You control the coverage you offer and how much you pay toward employee premiums.
  • You can choose from 4 levels of coverage to find a plan that meets the needs of your business and employees.
  • You can start coverage any time. Enroll by the 15th of the month and coverage can begin on the 1st of the following month.
  • If you buy SHOP coverage and have fewer than 25 employees, you may qualify for a small business health care tax credit worth up to 50% of your premium costs. You can still deduct from your taxes the rest of your premium costs not covered by the tax credit. Beginning in 2014 the tax credit is available only for plans purchased through SHOP.

How to know if you qualify for the SHOP Marketplace

  • In 2016, SHOP is open to employers with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. Some states may make the SHOP Marketplace available to businesses with up to 100 employees.
  • In order to use SHOP, you must offer coverage to all of your full-time employees – generally those working 30 or more hours per week on average.
  • In many states, at least 70% of your full-time employees must enroll in your SHOP plan. (Employers who apply for SHOP coverage between November 15 and December 15 each year can enroll without meeting this requirement.)
  • There is a SHOP Marketplace in each state. You must have an office or employee work site within the SHOP’s service area to use that particular SHOP.