The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace helps small businesses provide health coverage to their employees.

The SHOP Marketplace is open to employers with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), including non-profit organizations. You can enroll in SHOP at any point throughout the year.

Note: If you're self-employed with no employees, you can get health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace for individuals, but not through SHOP.

Benefits of the SHOP Marketplace

The SHOP Marketplace allows you to offer high-quality health and dental coverage that meets the needs of your business and your employees. SHOP offers flexibility, choice, and the convenience of online application and account management.

  • For 2015 coverage and beyond, you apply for SHOP, choose a plan or plans, complete your coverage offering, manage employee participation, and pay your premiums online. Your employees enroll online too.
  • You control the coverage you offer and how much you pay toward employee premiums. You choose whether to offer dependent coverage (some states require it) and dental insurance. You choose how long your employees’ Open Enrollment Period is, and the waiting period before new employees can enroll.
  • You can use your current agent or broker to help you enroll, find a new agent or broker in your area familiar with SHOP plans, or handle your enrollment yourself. When you apply, you can search for agents and brokers registered to sell SHOP plans by ZIP code.
  • You can enroll in SHOP any month, any time of year. There’s no restricted enrollment period when you can start offering a SHOP plan.
  • In all states, you can offer one health plan to your employees. In some states, you can choose a coverage category, like Bronze or Silver, and let your employees choose any plan at in that category.
  • If you enroll in SHOP coverage and have fewer than 25 employees, you may qualify for a Small Business Health Care Tax Credit worth up to 50% of your premium costs. The tax credit is available only for plans bought through the SHOP Marketplace.

Apply for SHOP coverage


More answers

Do I have to provide insurance to my employees?

Not if you have 50 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) 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 plan I offer my employees?


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 aren’t included when determining if your business is eligible to offer SHOP coverage. To be eligible for SHOP you must have between 1 and 50 full-time equivalent employees who aren’t business owners, partners, or family members.

Can I offer dental coverage to my employees through the SHOP Marketplace?

Yes. You can choose to offer dental coverage to employees, but you don’t have to. Offering dental coverage may be particularly important if you’re offering dependent coverage and the medical plan or plans you’re offering don’t include pediatric dental benefits.

You’ll have the option to choose a dental plan when you fill out your SHOP application.
Learn more about Health and Dental Plans in the SHOP Marketplace (PDF).
What’s the difference between the high and low dental plan categories?

If you choose to offer dental coverage, you’ll select a coverage category, high or low, and set the percentage of the premium costs you want to contribute. Employees can use your contribution toward any dental plan offered within the coverage category you select.

Generally the high coverage level pays 85% of the total average cost of care and the low coverage level pays 70% of the total average cost of care.
Learn more about Health and Dental Plans in the SHOP Marketplace (PDF).
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. Learn more about buying SHOP coverage outside the initial enrollment period (PDF).