Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) for small employers

Certain small employers — generally those with less than 50 employees, that don’t offer a group health plan — can contribute to their employees’ health care costs through a Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA).

A QSEHRA allows small employers to provide non-taxed reimbursement of certain health care expenses, like health insurance premiums and coinsurance, to employees who maintain minimum essential coverage, such as a plan from the Individual Marketplace. In many states, QSEHRAs allow small employers to provide their employees additional plan choices without managing group health plan coverage.

Note: A QSEHRA isn’t a traditional group health plan. For small businesses interested in offering traditional group coverage, learn more about SHOP plans and find out if SHOP is available in your state. Enrolling in SHOP is generally the only way to qualify for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, which can save eligible employers up to 50% of their employer contribution for 2 consecutive years.

QSEHRA contributions

With a QSEHRA, small employers can decide what they will contribute to their employees’ health care costs, up to the annual maximum. Employees pay their provider or insurance company for their health care costs, then submit proof of payment to be reimbursed by the QSEHRA. Reimbursement is tax-free. If an employee doesn’t submit a claim, the employer keeps the money, though it may choose to roll it over from year to year while the employee is still employed by the business. Typically, QSEHRA amounts claimed by employees are paid monthly by their employer.

Year Maximum employee only contribution Maximum for employees and families

2017

$4,950 ($412 monthly)

$10,050 ($837 monthly)

2018

$5,050 ($420 monthly)

$10,250 ($854 monthly)

2019

$5,150 ($429 monthly)

$10,450 ($870 monthly)

Generally, the QSEHRA amount you provide to your employees will affect the amount of premium tax credit your employees are eligible for with their Individual Marketplace coverage. They may be eligible for some or no tax credit depending on the QSEHRA amount you provide. Visit the IRS website to find out more about QSEHRA rules.

How to start a QSEHRA

Small employers can set up a QSEHRA at any time. You’ll just need to provide a written notice to your employees as soon as they’re eligible to participate and 90 days before the beginning of each plan year. Note: Employees must have qualifying health coverage to use their QSEHRA amount.

You may want to consider how your employees can get qualifying health coverage when picking a start date. For example, providing a QSEHRA starting on January 1 allows employees to choose coverage during the individual market’s annual Open Enrollment Period, and in most cases plan deductibles reset on January 1 each year. If you’re ending group health plan coverage to provide a QSEHRA, your employees may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

Get help: Talk to a licensed tax professional, benefits specialist, or health insurance agent or broker to find out whether either group coverage or QSEHRAs are right for your small business.

Exploring coverage options?

Compare QSEHRAs to other products and services that may be available to help you cover your employees.

Employees: Understanding QSEHRAs

If you’re an employee who has been provided a QSEHRA by your employer, learn more about QSEHRAs and the Marketplace.