It’s a challenging time for small business owners. Faced with the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many are rethinking their healthcare coverage and doing comparison shopping. Healthcare plans, even those offered to small businesses through SHOP, vary from state to state. However, small business owners are exploring every insurance option, from government to direct marketplace.

Shopping for health insurance through SHOP

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Although ACA is in limbo, SHOP is still a good resource for small business health insurance. Small businesses with up to 50 employees can enroll through private group health insurance plans under SHOP. Self-employed individuals who wish to purchase an ACA healthcare plan can choose individual or family healthcare coverage through the government health insurance exchange. SHOP has a list of agents and brokers in all states, many of whom also sell private healthcare plans outside of the national health insurance network.

A few SHOP basics

Small businesses interested in a SHOP market health insurance plan should note that according to the Overview of The SHOP Marketplace, “The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace is for small employers who want to provide health and dental insurance to their employees — affordably, flexibly, and conveniently. To use the SHOP Marketplace, your business or non-profit organization must have 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). You don’t have to wait for an open enrollment period. You can start offering SHOP insurance to your employees any time of year.”

The self-employed needn’t despair

Self employment insurance can be expensive in the private sector. However, with assistance and a little advice from resources such as SHOP, the self-employed aren’t entirely going it alone. According to the self-employed section of the government’s healthcare website, “If you’re self-employed, you can use the individual Health Insurance Marketplace to enroll in flexible, high-quality health coverage that works well for people who run their own businesses. You can enroll through the Marketplace if you’re a freelancer, consultant, independent contractor, or other self-employed worker who doesn’t have any employees.”

The self-employed, in addition to looking for low-cost health insurance, can take advantage of tax credits to reduce healthcare premiums. According to the Health Insurance Marketplace, “When you fill out a Marketplace application, you’ll find out if you qualify for premium tax credits and other savings on a health plan. This will be based on your income and household size.”

Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and employee retiree benefits

Being low income, retired or a retiree beneficiary is no obstacle to individuals intent on becoming a business owner. For those who qualify, Medicaid and CHIP are 4enrolling in these programs. Older small business owners qualify for Medicare if age 62 or older. Those who receive retiree benefits from a former employer can use their retiree health coverage combined with Medicare if they qualify.

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Private health insurance directly from the market

Many private insurance companies offer health plans to the self-employed and small business owners with less than 50 employees. The more innovative plans, however, can be more cost effective than the SHOP market plans. Small businesses that can afford the premiums would be purchasing directly through healthcare insurance providers.

Employer health insurance

Small business owners who qualify for neither low income nor retiree benefits often pull in extra income and receive health coverage from an employer. This is usually because they prefer not to choose an Affordable Care Act plan.

Private health savings account

A health savings account can be purchased directly from a bank or health insurance company if not offered through a retiree or employer benefits plan. Some banks offer health insurance savings accounts as an extra customer perk. Contribution to a health savings account is an allowable tax deduction.

Veterans Health Benefits

The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (CHAMPUSVA) was created to help veterans enroll in a healthcare program. If under age 65, they can acquire health coverage outside the VA network through CHAMPUS, a federally funded healthcare program revamped and renamed Tricare.


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This article was written by Linda Cameron for CBS Small Business Pulse.