Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP)
Next November, small businesses searching for affordable employee health coverage and accompanying tax credits may have an easier time with the launch of the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, online exchange.
The small business marketplace, which had been scheduled to open in the fall of 2013, was delayed a year while health officials fine-tuned HealthCare.gov, the Obamacare federal exchange currently offering individual coverage in 36 states.
The postponement has not affected the availability of the small business tax credits, which return up to 50 percent of the cost of employee health care. But for now, smaller employers must apply for exchange plans through a health insurance agent or broker, or directly through an insurance company.
"SHOP really gives small businesses an opportunity to have a group market, and employees a choice of plans," says Palanker. "Small business employees may have (had) little or no plan choice, whereas those working for large employers may have three, four or more. We have an employer-based health care system, and we want small employers to be able to attract talent."