Small business health insurance options for 2015

If you have a small business, you're not required to offer your employees health insurance, but if  you do, you might qualify for tax credits.

Open enrollment

You can buy a small employer health plan all year long or add employees to your plan, but you have additional options if you buy coverage during the annual open enrollment period (Nov. 15, 2014 through Dec. 15, 2014).

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange has open enrollment for 2015 for small group and individual plans Nov.15, 2014 through Dec.15, 2014. If you buy a plan during this period your group will not be subject to minimum-employee participation requirements (app.leg.wa.gov).

Also during this time, your employees have the option to go to Washington Healthplanfinder (www.wahealthplanfinder.org) to qualify for a tax credit or Apple Health (Medicaid), rather than participating in your small employer plan.

Small businesses (1-50) and businesses with 51-100 employees are not subject to the employer mandates so you won’t have a tax penalty if you don’t offer a plan to your employees.

Where to buy a health plan

If you have a small business with 1-50 employees, you have several options:

Small employer market - Any business with 1-50 employees can buy health insurance in the small employer market. Currently, there are 12 insurers selling more than 300 health plans. You buy directly from an insurance company or from an insurance agent or broker.

Washington state’s Exchange - This year, small businesses also can choose a health plan through Washington Healthplanfinder Business (www.wahbexchange.org) (formerly called SHOP). If you buy here, plans are available in every county, starting Jan. 1, 2015. Also, tax credits are available to some businesses that qualify.

Association health plans - Small businesses can still buy health insurance through an association. But if the association is not a true large employer (more than 50 employees), the business cannot get a large employer plan, they must be sold a small employer plan.

Don’t buy a health plan - You can decide not to buy group health insurance and let employees buy their own individual health plans.

Tax credits for small business

If you have less than 25 employees with average annual salaries of less than $50,000 per year, you may qualify for tax credits through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange (www.wahbexchange.org).  Learn more about qualifying for the tax credit (www.irs.gov).

Options if you're self-employed

Even if you’re self-employed, you might qualify to buy small group health insurance if:

  • You have been in business for at least one year;
  • In the previous tax year, you earned at least 75 percent of your income from the business. (if your business income falls below 75 percent in a tax year, you’ll no longer qualify for small group insurance); and
  • You file an IRS Form 1040(C) or (F).

Updated 12/18/2014

See also

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