Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP)

What is SHOP?

The Small Business Healthcare Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace is for small employers who want to provide health and dental coverage 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). (Some states may use different employee maximums for 2016.)

You can start offering SHOP coverage to your employees any time of year.


To enroll in a SHOP plan in most states you’ll use an agent, broker, or insurance company. You’ll also fill out a SHOP eligibility application. Choose your state and we’ll help you get started.

Work with The Bradford Group Financial Service Co as your broker

How do I authorize my agent or broker?

Log in to your account and select “Visit the Employer Marketplace." Then do a search for your agent or broker and select “Authorize” next to their name. This sends an authorization request. Once they accept your request they can start working with you.
NOTE: You can authorize a SHOP Marketplace-registered agent or broker any time — before you apply, after you enroll, after your coverage starts, or any other time. You can change agents or brokers up to twice per year.

Can an agent or broker do everything for me?

Almost. A licensed insurance agent or broker registered with the SHOP Marketplace can help you:

  • Determine if your business is eligible to use the SHOP Marketplace
  • Understand eligibility for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit
  • Fill out a SHOP Marketplace application
  • Review and compare plans
  • Manage employee acceptances and declines of your offer
  • Enroll in a plan
  • Manage and update your coverage after you’re enrolled
  • Handle renewals and plan changes

Agents or brokers can’t submit your premium payments for you. You’ll pay your premiums directly to the SHOP Marketplace yourself.

Benefits of the SHOP Marketplace

  • You control the coverage you offer and how much you pay toward employee premiums.
  • You can choose from up to 4 levels of coverage to find plan offerings that meet the needs of your business and employees.
  • You can start coverage any time. Enroll by the 15th of the month and coverage can begin on the 1st of the following month.
  • If you buy SHOP coverage and have fewer than 25 employees, you may qualify for a small business health care tax credit worth up to 50% of your premium costs. You can still deduct from your taxes the rest of your premium costs not covered by the tax credit. Beginning in 2014 the tax credit is available only for plans purchased through SHOP.

Use the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit Estimator to find out if you qualify and how much you may save.

How to know if you qualify for the SHOP Marketplace

  • In 2014, SHOP is open to employers with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. Use our FTE Calculator to find out if you qualify to use SHOP.
  • In order to use SHOP, you must offer coverage to all of your full-time employees – generally those working 30 or more hours per week on average.
  • In many states, at least 70% of your employees offered coverage must enroll in your SHOP plan. (Employers who apply for SHOP coverage between November 15 and December 15 each year can enroll without meeting this requirement.)
  • There is a SHOP Marketplace in each state. You must have an office or employee work site within the SHOP's service area to use that particular SHOP.


What is Defined Contribution?

“Pure” Defined contribution health benefit: A type of health plan in which the amount of the employer's annual contribution to employees' health is specified.

Compare this to a traditional group health plan where the employer specifies the group health insurance plan (a defined benefit).

With a “pure” defined contribution approach:

  • A group health insurance plan is not offered
  • Employees receive a tax free health care allowance, and choose any individual health plan

What Is Self Funding

Gain control over health care expenses, and lower your insurance costs now and for years to come, by putting a self-funded health plan to work for your small business. With self funding — directly funding your group’s own claims — you pay only for the health care services your group actually uses. If your group’s claims expenses are relatively low, your overall savings can be significant. *Employer may be responsible for additional applicable state or federally mandated fees.

Let's make it clear.

  • Your workers and their families deserve health benefits.
  • Your company is obligated to manage the cost of these benefits for the long-term good of the business.

We can help, our service doesn't cost you your workers...
we work for you, but we are paid by the insurance carriers.