(HealthNewsDigest.com) - Seventeen states, along with the District of Columbia, have chosen to run their own 'SHOP' marketplaces to enable small businesses to buy health insurance for their employees, a new Commonwealth Fund-supported studyfinds. The federal government is operating SHOP marketplaces in the remaining states.
SHOP, or the Small Business Health Options Program, is open to employers with 50 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees, and tax credits are available for employers with fewer than 25 employees making an average of less than $50,000. According to the study, nearly all states that are running their own SHOPs have attracted enough competition to offer small-business employers and employees a choice of insurers and plans, though offerings vary widely.
Lead author Sarah Dash and colleagues at Georgetown University note that small firms have long struggled to provide affordable, comprehensive health benefits to their workers, who are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured than those in large firms.
"For years, our research has shown that small-businesses owners and their employees are often priced out of the health insurance market, have very limited options when it comes to insurance, or are forced to select plans with high premiums and limited benefits," said Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal, M.D. "The health reform law's market reforms and SHOP marketplaces are an opportunity for small businesses to finally provide a range of affordable, comprehensive coverage options to their employees."
Visit commonwealthfund.org to read the brief and use our interactive feature to learn details about SHOP marketplaces in each state.