Overview of SHOP: Health insurance for small businesses

The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) is for small employers who want to provide health and/or dental insurance to their employees — affordably, flexibly, and conveniently.

  • To purchase SHOP insurance, your business or non-profit organization must have 1 to 50 employees. See if your business qualifies for SHOP.
  • If eligible, you don't have to wait for an Open Enrollment Period. You can start offering SHOP coverage to your employees any time of year.

Note: If you are a self-employed business owner with no employees, or an employee who does not have an offer of coverage from your employer, visit the Marketplace for individuals and families to see your coverage options.

Ready to enroll?

There’s a new way to sign up for SHOP health and/or dental plans that start on or after January 1, 2018. You’ll either work with a SHOP-registered insurance agent or broker or handle everything yourself through your insurance company. You can no longer select, apply for, enroll in, or manage coverage through HealthCare.gov.

Learn more about how to enroll in SHOP insurance.

4 reasons to offer SHOP coverage

  1. SHOP insurance gives you choice and flexibility. You can:

    • Offer your employees one plan, or let them choose from multiple
    • Offer only health coverage, only dental coverage, or both
    • Choose how much you pay toward your employees' premiums and whether to offer coverage to their dependents
    • Decide how long new employees must wait before enrolling
  2. Get the information you need in one location. You can make an informed decision about your SHOP insurance options with the tools at HealthCare.gov:

  3. You can work with an agent or broker. You can use your current SHOP-registered agent or broker or find a new one to help you enroll in coverage.

  4. You may be able to get a Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. Enrolling in SHOP insurance is generally the only way for small businesses to take advantage of the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. You may qualify if you have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees making an average of about $50,000 or less.

Enrolling in SHOP insurance

Once you're ready to enroll in SHOP coverage, you have 2 options:

  • Contact your insurance company and enroll directly through them.
  • Enroll with the assistance of a SHOP-registered agent or broker.

Find out more about enrolling in SHOP insurance.


More answers: Overview of SHOP: Health insurance for small businesses

Do I have to provide insurance to my employees?

If you have 1 to 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, you're not required to provide insurance to your employees. You can choose to offer insurance through SHOP or any other source. But you don't have to, and there's no penalty if you don't.

If you have 50 or more employees, learn about the Employer Shared Responsibility Payment.

Can I enroll in the same SHOP coverage that I offer my employees?

Yes, as long as at least one of your employees (who isn't a business owner, partner or family member) also enrolls in your coverage.

If my only employee is my spouse or a family member, can I use SHOP to cover us both?

Generally, no. Spouses and family members don't count when determining if your business is eligible to use SHOP. To be eligible, you must have 1 to 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees who aren’t business owners, partners, or family members.

Can my employees enroll in SHOP coverage 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.

For new employees hired after your initial SHOP enrollment period, you can decide on a waiting period before coverage can become effective. Waiting periods can't exceed 90 days.