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SHOP Marketplace: Health Insurance for Small Businesses

The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace is for small employers who want to provide health and dental coverage to their employees — affordably, flexibly, and conveniently.

To use the SHOP Marketplace, your business or non-profit organization must have 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). (Some states may use different employee maximums for 2016.)

You can start offering SHOP coverage to your employees any time of year.

FYI If you're self-employed with no employees, visit the Health Insurance Marketplace for Individuals & Families. The SHOP Marketplace is for business with at least one full-time equivalent (FTE) employee other than owners, partners, or family members. Learn about coverage if you’re self-employed.

5 reasons to use the SHOP Marketplace to offer employee insurance

  1. The SHOP Marketplace offers high-quality plans from private insurance companies.

  2. You have choice and flexibility. You can:

    • Offer your employees one plan, or let them choose from multiple plans
    • Offer only health coverage, health and dental coverage, or only dental coverage
    • Choose how much you pay toward your employees’ premiums, and whether to offer coverage to their dependents
    • Decide how long your employees’ initial enrollment period is, and how long new employees must wait before joining the plan
  3. You can handle everything online — applying, choosing plans, managing your coverage, and paying your premiums — whenever it’s convenient for you

  4. You can use your current agent or broker, work with any SHOP-registered agent or broker, or handle everything yourself. You won’t pay more if you use an agent or broker. See how to work with an agent or broker in SHOP.

  5. If you have fewer than 25 employees, you may qualify for a Small Business Health Care Tax Credit worth up to 50% of your premium costs.

Next steps to offer SHOP health insurance


More answers: The SHOP Marketplace

Do I have to provide insurance to my employees?

If you have fewer than 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, you are not required to provide insurance to your employees. You can choose to offer insurance through the SHOP Marketplace or any other source. But you don’t have to, and you don’t face a penalty if you don’t.

If you have 50 or more employees, learn about the Employer Shared Responsibility Payment.
Can I cover myself through a SHOP Marketplace plan I offer my employees?

Yes, as long as at least one of your employees enrolls in your coverage.

If my only employee is my spouse or a family member, can I use the SHOP Marketplace to offer coverage to us both?

Generally, no. Spouses and family members don’t count when determining if your business is eligible to use the SHOP Marketplace. To be eligible, you must have 1 to 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees who aren’t business owners, partners, or family members.

Can my employees join my plan after the initial enrollment period?

Yes, but only if they qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to a life change, like having a baby, adopting a child, or getting married.

Are some states expanding SHOP to allow businesses with up to 100 employees participate?

Starting in 2016, some states may make the SHOP Marketplace available to businesses with up to 100 employees. If you have more than 50 employees and don’t know if you can use the SHOP Marketplace, contact your state Department of Insurance or the SHOP Call Center using the number above.