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Small Business Health Options

The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) helps Maryland small businesses and nonprofit organizations provide health insurance coverage to their employees. You can sign up through the SHOP any time of year.

The SHOP is the only place where small businesses may enroll to qualify for a health care tax credit from the IRS to help lower the cost of coverage for their employees.

Our SHOP carriers include:

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Enjoy these benefits for your growing business

  • Tax credits to help pay your share of employee premium costs, if you qualify
  • Peace of mind knowing all plans have been certified by Maryland Health Connection and cover essential health benefits
  • Flexibility in contributing to your employee’s premiums, through fixed percent or fixed dollar contributions
  • Simplicity in paying for premiums by generating a single monthly bill for all employees
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Your business may qualify for a tax credit to lower the cost of coverage

The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit is available for plans purchased through the SHOP and may be claimed for any two consecutive years beginning in 2014.

Up to 50 percent of your contribution to employee premiums (or 35 percent for a tax-exempt small employer) may be covered by the tax credit. Eligibility is determined by the IRS.

See if your business may qualify

Learn more about the tax credit

Metal Level
Enrollment options for your employees

  • Employer Choice: You select one insurance company that offers coverage through the SHOP, and employees may choose any SHOP plan across any metal level that insurance company offers.
  • Employee Choice: You select one metal level of coverage, and employees may choose any SHOP plan across all the insurance companies that offer plans at that metal level.
  • Employer Choice Model and Composite Rating: The employer selects a single qualified health plan from one insurance company, and all employees enrolled pay the same premium amount.

SHOP Employer Choice Chart

Get started!

Maryland’s SHOP Administrator is trained to provide free expertise and support to make the best health insurance decisions for you and your employees, provide administrative support and manage the open enrollment process and deadlines.

You can also work with a SHOP-authorized broker to assist with your purchase of a SHOP plan. These licensed professionals provide you free help choosing a plan that works for your business.

Find a SHOP-authorized producer (PDF)

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Frequently Asked Questions

To be eligible to participate in the SHOP Marketplace, you must:

  • Have a principal business address within Maryland, or you can offer coverage to each eligible employee through the SHOP Marketplace serving that employee's primary worksite.
  • Have at least one common-law employee on payroll (not including a business owner or sole proprietor or their spouses if they're on payroll). For the definition of a common-law employee, visit the IRS website
  • Employ 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), including part-time employees. To calculate FTEs please use the Full-time Equivalent Employee Calculator at healthcare.gov/shop-calculators-fte/
  • Offer coverage to all full-time employees

The SHOP will review the employer's application to confirm that the employer meets each of these SHOP eligiblity requirements. Maryland Health Connection will provide the employer with a notice of the employer's eligibility determination.

Eligibility for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit is determined by the IRS. Please use this tax credit estimator to see if you're eligible HealthCare.gov/shop-calculators-taxcredit/


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Your group's effective date will depend on how quickly you move through the process of selecting the plans that you make available to employees, how long the employees have to select their coverage, and how quickly you make your first payment to your selected insurance company.


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If the employee elects to keep their individual coverage through Maryland Health Connection, they may do so. However, if their employer's plan is considered "affordable" (I.e. their employee contribution toward the employer-sponsored health plan for single coverage is less than 9.66% of their income) and the employer offers a plan that meets the minimum value standard, the employee would not be eligible for any tax credits or cost-sharing reductions for any months that they continue to be enrolled in an individual qualified health plan. However, if the employee contribution toward the employer-sponsored health plan is considered "unaffordable" or does not meet the minimum value standard, the employee may be eligible for tax credits and cost-sharing reductions (depending on their household income) for any months they continue to be enrolled in the individual exchange. They will be required to reconcile their advanced premium tax credits on their plan year tax filing.

The employee may also terminate their individual coverage and join their employer-sponsored plan through the SHOP. The employee should alert Maryland Health Connection that they would like to terminate their individual coverage. The individual is not responsible for paying back any subsidies received while employer-sponsored coverage was not available to the employee and their dependents.

An employee who is eligible for employer-sponsored coverage through their spouse and/or parent's plan, as applicable, or through a public plan, including Medicare, Medicaid and CHAMPUS, may elect to keep that coverage and not enroll in their newly offered employer sponsored plan.


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If you do not have at least one employee, you are not eligible for the SHOP. However, you may qualify for a health plan and financial help through Maryland Health Connection, the health insurance marketplace for individuals and families.


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