Maryland SHOP program for small-business employee health coverage gaining traction

The Daily Record Baltimore SHOP MarylandThe progress of Maryland’s SHOP program for small business insurance has been noted by several media of late.

As IFAwebnews.com described recently, the main benefits of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), which is open to businesses with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees, are tax credits for the first two years and the “employee choice” option.

Businesses can qualify for a two-year tax credit if they have 25 or fewer employees.  “Employee choice” allows small business to offer a wider array of health plan options they they often could before. Employees of businesses in the program can typically choose from among a dozen or so health plans in a specific “metal” level of coverage. That’s several times as many choices as they might have had previously, said the IFA article, “Md. small business health insurance portal, SHOP, goes live.”

Third-Party Administrators — Kelly & Associates Insurance Group Inc., Group Benefit Services Inc., both of Hunt Valley, and Dallas-based BenefitMall —are leveraging long-standing relationships with insurance providers and brokers to administer the SHOP program in Maryland. Using the sector’s existing systems to launch SHOP was “the smartest move that could be done,” Joe Appelbaum, president and CEO of Potomac Companies, an employee-benefit consulting firm, told The Daily Record of Baltimore earlier this summer for an article headlined, “Md. small-business insurance exchange gaining traction.

And as the Baltimore Business Journal described last month, there is not a set enrollment period for SHOP. Businesses can move to the employee choice program or sign up for tax credits anytime throughout the year.