What is the ‘SHOP Marketplace’?

     The home page of the SHOP website gives information about how the SHOP Marketplace will work.

    The home page of the SHOP website gives information about how the SHOP Marketplace will work.

    Question: What is the SHOP marketplace?

    Got questions about the Affordable Care Act? In a regular feature, the WHYY/NewsWorks Health and Science Desk is providing “The Short Answer.” 

    Today’s question:

    What is the SHOP marketplace?

    The short answer

    We have heard a lot about the online insurance marketplaces, where people and businesses can sign up for healthcare plans. SHOP is one section in that online marketplace that is especially designed for small-business owners.

    How do they define small business?

    It’s for businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees — those businesses that are not required to provide insurance under the health care law.

    Some 19.6 million Americans work for companies employing fewer than 20 workers, and 18.4 million work for firms employing between 20 and 99 workers. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of employer benefits, 32 percent of small firms did not provide any benefits at all. In this study, small companies are defined as having fewer than 200 employees

    So the SHOP marketplace encourages businesses that are not required to provide insurance to use the website to look into offering it. They can compare plans, compare the price tag, and they can control how much they pay toward their employee premiums. They might also get a tax credit of up to 50 percent of their premium cost if they do this.

    When does it start?

    Exchanges are set to open in October — and then the actual coverage begins in 2014.

    One big sticking point: We don’t know how many insurance companies will participate in the marketplaces. And there have been numerous reports that interest on the side of insurance companies to offer plans for the SHOP option has been lackluster.

    In Delaware, three companies have submitted plans — but we don’t know if they have been approved by the federal government yet.

    One more thing — There is a little-known notification requirement: All companies, regardless of size, are required to notify their employees about the Obamacare marketplaces.

    The U.S. Department of Labor has posted information on its website and has provided model notices that can be used both by employers.

    The 2010 health law goes into full effect Jan. 1, 2014. How will it affect you, your wallet and your health? Email your questions to healthandscience@whyy.org or tweet us @newsworksWHYY.

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