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""If you’re a small business owner, you might think that providing health insurance for employees is a luxury you just can’t afford. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. employers lose $225.8 billion each year in productivity because of employees’ personal or family health problems. By buying health insurance through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), administered by the Massachusetts Health Connector, you can offer your employees affordable coverage and potentially benefit financially at the same time.

What Is SHOP?

The SHOP Marketplace is a shopping and comparison tool. If you own a company with 50 or fewer full-time employees, SHOP is where you can find and buy affordable health care plans. These plans meet the requirements of both Massachusetts’ health care reform law and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Why Buy Health Insurance Through SHOP?

Businesses that buy health insurance for their employees through SHOP may be eligible to receive tax credits and rebates that help reduce costs.

  • Small Business Insurance Tax Credit — If your business has 25 full-time equivalent employees (FTE) or fewer and you buy health insurance through SHOP, you may qualify for up to a 50 percent tax credit of the cost of providing coverage for employees. The SHOP Tax Credit Estimator can help you estimate how much you are eligible to receive.
  • Wellness Track — If you buy coverage through SHOP and your business has fewer than 25 enrolled employees, you may qualify for up to a 15 percent rebate on the amount you pay toward premiums. To receive the rebate, you must follow guidelines and meet certain goals within 12 months of joining the program. These goals include:
    • Promoting a healthier environment by administering an employee wellness program
    • Selecting a wellness incentive for employees who engage in the program
    • Showing that at least 33 percent of employees completed their annual preventive checkup or filled out an online health assessment

How to Buy Insurance Through SHOP

You can enroll in SHOP anytime. The Health Connector provides a list of small business tools and resources to help guide you through the process more easily. These resources include:

  • An FTE Calculator to See if You Have 50 or Fewer Full-Time Employees — Sorting out the number of FTEs can be difficult, especially if your company has a mix of both full-time and part-time workers. You can use the FTE Calculator from HealthCare.gov to see if you’re eligible to enroll in SHOP.
  • A Checklist of Items Needed to Complete SHOP Enrollment — The Health Connector has a Business Express Enrollment Checklist to help you collect the required paperwork and information even before you start the enrollment process. After gathering all of the items on the checklist, you can fill out the Business Express Employer Application to join SHOP.
  • A Listing of Health Care Plans Tailored Specifically to Small Businesses — Sorting and comparing health care plans is easy with SHOP once you register on the Health Connector site. The state offers nearly 100 high-quality plans to small businesses that meet both state and national coverage standards.
  • A Network of Brokers to Help — If you need a little more guidance, certified brokers are available to help you find health care plans that meet your needs and budget. The Certified Broker Directory lists brokers and agencies to help you with your search.

For more information on SHOP and the health care choices available to your business, comment or tweet us @MassGov.

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