I own a small business. Can I get insurance for my employees through the exchange?
At one point, health plans for small businesses were available through a special portion of the exchange called the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). SHOP was an enrollment platform created by the Affordable Care Act to essentially act as the small business version of the individual insurance marketplace, allowing businesses to compare plans and enroll in coverage for their employees. It was initially available in every state, but the program was never very popular. As of 2018, insurers are no longer required to offer SHOP plans, and many have taken this opportunity to leave the SHOP marketplace entirely. This has in turn led to the closing of SHOP platforms in many states.
Today, HealthCare.gov no longer handles SHOP plans and instead directs small businesses towards brokers or insurance companies for coverage. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington D.C. all still have SHOP platforms in one form or another, with some employing a direct-to-carrier approach and others using a full-service enrollment platform. What exactly constitutes a “small business” will also vary by state. Most put the limit at 50 employees, but in some areas the cap has been raised to 100.
If you own a small business and are interested in getting insurance for your employees, check to see what the situation with SHOP is in your state and talk to a broker. There’s no need to worry about open enrollment, either – unlike individual insurance, enrollment in small business health plans can be done year-round.
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