As Affordable Care Act enrollment starts this week, these are four things small businesses should consider

Buying on the SHOP exchanges

For starters, there is the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchange where companies with fewer than 50 employees based in New Jersey and Delaware (Pennsylvania does not have this program available) can buy insurance at competitive — or even lower — rates than what is offered by private insurance brokers. There is also a tax credit available for some small businesses who purchase insurance through this program. Although the SHOP exchanges have not been as popular as hoped after the Affordable Care Act was introduced in 2011, some experts feel that it’s still a good option.

Helping employees get individual coverage

If your business doesn’t offer health insurance, then it’s a good idea to educate your employees — particularly lower income employees — on the choices they have on the various state health-care Marketplace exchanges. Employees in Pennsylvania and New Jersey without employer-sponsored coverage can visit the Pennieor GetCoveredNJ (Delaware still uses the federal health-care site, healthcare.gov) where they can find out more about which plans may be available to them.

Considering Medicaid

Rich Krekstein, a managing director at NFP Corporate Benefits in the Philadelphia area, also advises his small business clients to encourage lower-income employees to consider Medicaid.

Offer Health Reimbursement Accounts

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, small employers who can’t afford to buy group health insurance either through the Marketplace or from an individual broker can still help their employees by offering either an Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Account (ICHRA) or a Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Account (QSEHRA). Through these plans, a small business can provide non-taxed funds to reimburse employees for qualified medical expenses, including monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs for individual plans the employees buy themselves.

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Gene Marks

Gene Marks

Columnist on smallbiz, economy, public policy, tech for The Guardian, The Hill, Philly Inquirer, Wash Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur. Small Business owner and CPA