The answer is yes with many caveats. And those caveats depend on where your business is located, what kind of health insurance you are looking to purchase and whether you are planning to buy it online. Also, are you entitled to a tax credit and will your employees have a reasonable selection from among the variety of plans promised through the SHOP?
First and foremost, where is your business? If you operate in a state where there is a small business marketplace–the states that are running exchanges for individuals–then you can most likely purchase health insurance online. The remaining states, those under the federal system, are different. Through November 2014, there is no online enrollment and business owners can work though an insurance agent or the carrier directly. Plan information, however, can be found on healthcare.gov.
Some of the major features that were expected to be included in the Small Business Health Options Program or SHOP plans, created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aren’t available in every state, regardless of whether the state has its own exchange or is a state using healthcare.gov. The ACA has stipulated that the SHOP offer more than one plan and all employees of small businesses have access to any of the plans in the exchange. For 2014, depending upon what the exchange offers, a business owner may have a choice of one plan only, several plans, or a single provider with several options for employees.
Whether you’re thinking about purchasing health insurance from the SHOP for an existing plan or for the first time, the government is expanding the small business tax credit to encourage owners to consider buying from the SHOP. Businesses with 25 or fewer employees that purchase a SHOP plan may be eligible for a tax credit. This credit, which began in 2010, has been increased for 2014 from 35% to 50% of employer paid insurance premiums. It is available only to companies whose employees average annual wages are no greater than $25,000.
SHOPping for health insurance for your business at the exchange will continue to be confusing through year end and into 2014. If your state has its own small business marketplace, there may be plans there that benefit both you and your employees. It’s less likely that healthcare.gov will offer anything that’s markedly different that what you may already have.
For additional information, contact EAB HealthWorks.