Options differ for small businesses
Q: Are employers required to use the new business marketplace to buy insurance?
A: No. The federal law specifically states businesses aren't required to buy insurance through the SHOP (Small-business Health Options Program) and can continue to buy health insurance through an insurance agent or broker, as they do today.
Q: Are there reasons a small business employer might use SHOP?
A: Yes. Small group employers with 25 or fewer employees (with an average wage of less than $50,000 a year) may be eligible for tax credits. The tax credit will cover up to 50 percent of the employer's cost (up to 35 percent for small nonprofit organizations) and is available for the first two years an employer offers coverage through a state exchange.
Q: What options will employers have on the marketplaces?
A: Recently, the federal government finalized rules delaying part of the SHOP exchange until 2015. For 2014 only, employers will be able to select one plan for their employees for states with federally facilitated exchanges; employee choice is optional for state-based exchanges in 2014.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER