Healthcare Plans

SHOP vs. ICHRA: Which Is Best for Your Small Business?

Team Orca
Sep 14, 2023

Small business owners grapple with many decisions, including which health benefit options to provide their team. Both the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) and the Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement (ICHRA) present compelling benefits, but how do they stack up against each other? While there's a lot to appreciate about SHOPs, ICHRA often comes out on top for its versatility and adaptability. Let's break it down.

Benefits of SHOP Plans for Small Businesses:

Tax Credits:

The standout advantage of SHOP plans is the potential for tax credits. If eligible, businesses can avail of a tax credit worth up to 50% of their contribution towards employees' premium costs (35% for tax-exempt employers).


SHOP offers a conventional approach to group health insurance, which many employees are already accustomed to. This can translate to smoother transitions and understanding.

Who should consider SHOP Health Insurance Plans?

- Businesses primed to benefit from significant tax credits.
- Those with a preference for the familiarity of a traditional group plan.
- Enterprises valuing the conventional health insurance model for their workforce.

Advantages of ICHRA for Small Businesses


ICHRAs empower employers to set aside a specific budget for employees to purchase individual health plans. This approach ensures that employees get a plan most suited to their unique needs.

Predictable Costs:

By defining their contribution with ICHRA, businesses can better forecast their health benefits expenditure year over year.

Employee Autonomy:

Given the freedom to choose, employees often appreciate and are more satisfied with a plan tailored for them.

No Minimum Participation:

One of the standout benefits of ICHRA is that there's no minimum participation requirement. This is especially useful for businesses with a varying number of employees or those that face frequent workforce changes.

Tax Benefits:

While SHOP offers specific tax credits, ICHRA contributions are made pre-tax. This means businesses can make deductions, and these contributions remain non-taxable for employees.

Who should consider ICHRA?

- Businesses aiming for consistent budgeting.
- Companies that prioritize offering diverse health plan options.
- Enterprises that might not qualify for SHOP tax credits or find ICHRA's tax advantages more fitting.
- Businesses that would benefit from no minimum participation constraints.

In Conclusion

Though both SHOPs and ICHRAs have their merits, ICHRA frequently shines brighter due to its adaptability, consistent costing, and its emphasis on individual preferences. That said, businesses positioned to leverage SHOP tax credits and those that lean towards traditional health insurance setups might find SHOPs a more favorable choice.

When making your decision, it's wise to consult with insurance professionals, gauge your business's unique needs, and weigh the individual advantages of each option. Remember, the end goal is to opt for a plan that's not just in vogue, but one that aligns perfectly with your business's aspirations and the holistic welfare of your employees.

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