Everything You Need to Know About Group Health Insurance Plans for Small Business [2021 Update]

A comprehensive guide on getting small business group health insurance for your employees


Thinking about getting a group health insurance plan for your small business but don’t think you can afford it? If you have 50 or fewer full-time employees on the team, group coverage may be a lot more affordable than you think. 

In this guide, we’re going to explore the different group health insurance plan options that are available to small business owners. This includes a rundown of the potential benefits for employers, as well as answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding small group health plans. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS: Group Health Insurance for Small Business Owners

We get it. You’ve got a business to run, and time is money. Here are the main points outlined in this small business insurance guide:

Group Health Insurance for Small Business

Group Health Insurance is the most popular way for small companies to provide health benefits

Small Business Tax Credit

Companies with fewer than 25 employees may be eligible for the Small Business Tax Credit, which could be worth up to 50% of your total contributions.

Health Insurance Linked to Productivity

Health insurance benefits are linked to increased employee productivity.

cost-saving alternatives to small group health insurance plans

There are a number of cost-saving alternatives to small group health insurance plans, including small business HRAs and health care sharing plans.

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Q: What is small business group health insurance?

Also known simply as group coverage, small business group health insurance is a single policy issued to a group of 50 or fewer people. In most cases this is a business, although group coverage is also available for trade organizations and nonprofits. 

Small group coverage is sometimes more affordable than plans purchased on the individual market. This is mostly because insurers take on less risk when they insure more people. 

Q: Do I need to offer health insurance for my small business?

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) businesses who employ between 2 and 50 employees are exempt from the non-compliance penalty. This means that businesses of this size are not required to offer access to health insurance. 

That said, many businesses find that offering health benefits can improve employee recruiting, retention, and morale. 

Q: How many employees do you need to qualify for group health insurance?

The requirements for group health insurance plans vary a little but depending on which state you are in. Most states require that you have at least one employee that isn’t yourself. In other words, a business must have at least two people. 

Q: What is the Small Business Tax Credit?

If you are a company with fewer than 25 employees and your average wage is less than $50,000, then you could be eligible for the Small Business Tax Credit. This is a huge savings for small companies that can be worth up to 50% of your total contribution. The credit extends for two years, encouraging growing businesses to offer group coverage that might otherwise be unaffordable. 

Q: How do I buy small business group health insurance?

Purchasing small business group health insurance from a professional advisor is the best way to compare plans. There are thousands of different medical, dental, and vision plans on the market. Sorting through them by yourself is not an easy task. 

Here’s the process in four easy steps:

    1. Submit a census listing each employee, including age, sex, and smoking status. If an employee may want to cover dependents, then list them also.
    2. Work with your agent to review available plans and compare pricing options
    3. Decide on what plans and options you will make available to your employees. You will also need to determine how much of the premium you will pay, and how much will be the employee’s responsibility.
    4. Finally, you’ll announce an enrollment period in which your employees can get signed up.

For group plans, the employer is given a single bill, and can deduct the employee shares from their paychecks. 

Q: How much is health insurance for a small business?

Group insurance premiums can vary in price based on your location, the number of employees you are enrolling, and the total amount that you want to contribute. 

In general, you can expect a group coverage plan to average between $400 and $500 per month per employee. Other variables include where your business is located, the age of the employee, and family size (when family coverage is offered).

Estimating the cost of small business insurance is also an easy process that only takes a few minutes.

Q: Can a small business write off the cost of employee health insurance?

Yes. Small businesses can write off the payments made for group premiums. Businesses can also write off any payments made to an alternative health benefit option, like an HSA (Health Savings Account) or HRA. 

Q: Can I reimburse my employees for the cost of their own health insurance?

It is possible to reimburse your employees for the cost of individual insurance through the use of an HRA, or Health Reimbursement Arrangement. This tax-free reimbursement is a versatile way to give your employees a valuable health benefit without having to deal with administering a health plan. 

Q: What are high deductible health plans (HDHP)

High deductible health plans are a popular variety of health insurance that trade high deductibles for lower monthly premiums. HDHPs are also HSA-qualified. This means that they can work alongside a health savings account (HSA), a tax-free way to pay for medical expenses. 

Q: When can I enroll my employees in group coverage?

Unlike individual health insurance plans, group coverage can be purchased any time of year. In addition, employees can enroll from their very first paycheck, or you can establish a waiting period for new employees. 


Providing your small business employees with access to a group health insurance plan has several significant advantages:

Group health insurance can increase employee retention and satisfaction.

This has been demonstrated in a number of studies, including a 2016 report on employee satisfaction. With the increasing costs of individual plans, it is no surprise that health benefits are one of the top concerns for job-seekers. 

Health insurance creates healthy employees.

Offering a group plan is an effective way to keep your team performing at the top of their game. Healthy employees not only take fewer sick days, but they are also more likely to have regular checkups and participate in preventative care.

People with health insurance plans are more productive at work.

According to research from the CDC, workplace health programs reduce presenteeism, or the degree to which health symptoms and conditions negatively affect job performance. In other words, healthy workers simply get more accomplished. 

Small business can get a huge tax break if they offer group insurance.

Under the ACA, small businesses that meet the requirements can get a big tax credit by choosing to offer health insurance to their employees. The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit can be worth as much as half of what you’re contributing. In addition, all costs incurred for employee health care can be deducted. This significantly offsets the cost of providing benefits. 


employer chooses providerThe employer chooses the plan provider.

As the owner or manager, it’s up to you to select the plan that is best aligned with your goals. This means weighing your employees financial and medical needs against the brass-tacks numbers of what you can actually afford. This is where a professional group insurance advisor comes in handy. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself about group health insurance:

  • How much can the company afford to contribute to health care benefits? 
  • What coverage options are important to my current employees?
  • What coverage options are valuable to new, top talent in my company’s field?

When you have the answers to these questions, your benefits manager will be able to point you to the plan you’re looking for. 

employer decides how much to contribute for premiums
The employer decides how much to contribute for premiums.

For small businesses, there are no minimum contribution amounts for employers. This creates a valuable opportunity to offer a benefit that even large companies have trouble affording. 

In many states, businesses split the cost of a group plan with the employee. This can be 50/50, 70/30, or however you’d like to structure it. Many businesses agree to pay a flat dollar amount towards the premium, and the employee pays the remainder.

Just keep in mind that everything you contribute towards employee premiums is tax deductible. This is why health insurance offers are an effective alternative to base wage increases.

employer explains coverage options to employees
The employer explains the plan and coverage options to employees.

Your agent should help in describing your company’s health plan to your employees. Make sure they know how much it is going to cost them, as well as how much the company is covering. Once the employee is enrolled, their coverage will be in effect for as long as they’re receiving a paycheck. 

Employee care is managed through provider
Employee health care is managed through the plan provider

Once your employees are enrolled, their coverage begins immediately. Group plans work just like individual plans; Your employees will likely have copays and deductibles that need to be covered out-of-pocket. 

Administrating a small business insurance plan is not as much work as people think. Still, many growing businesses choose to work with a healthcare administrator or HR company to manage their coverage. 

What happens if you need to switch plans? 

If your new small group insurance plan isn’t working out, or if a better plan becomes available, changing things up is easy. There are no enrollment periods with group coverage like there are with individual plans. Plans can be canceled and purchased as needed. 

What happens if an employee leaves or is let go?

Group insurance plans allow for a 90-day continuance of coverage after an employee leaves the group. The plan premium still needs to be paid during this period.


Managed care health insurance comes in three basic coverage types:

HMO Health Insurance Plans.

Unlike PPO plans, Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans are designed to work with exclusively contracted doctors and hospitals. This means that out-of-network care is rarely covered. HMOs usually come with lower premiums and deductibles. 

PPO Health Insurance Plans.

With a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan, policyholders can choose from a network of contracted medical professionals for treatment. Out-of-network care is permitted, but may be covered at a lower rate. In general, PPOs have higher premiums than HMOs but are a bit more flexible.  In many states, PPO plans are only available to groups, not individuals.

POS Point of Service Plan.

POS plans are less common. These plans combine features of both PPOs and HMOs. They require the use of a primary care doctor and referrals for all specialist services. Out-of-network coverage is permitted, but like PPOs, it’s always cheaper to stay in-network. 


Health Savings Accounts were designed to help people manage the high deductibles of their individual insurance plans. An HSA is a tax-free savings account that can be used to pay for premiums, lab work, medications, and other health care costs.

In recent years, however, the HSA has emerged as a powerful investment tool. That’s because HSA funds are entirely tax-deferred. This means that no tax is paid on the deposit, growth, or withdrawal of HSA funds, as long as the funds are being used for qualified medical expenses.

If you choose to offer an HSA-eligible plan, you have the option of having the business make contributions to the HSA, or the employee can fund the account on their own.


Health insurance is not the only option on the table for small businesses. There are a number of cost-saving small business health insurance alternatives that make it possible to provide benefits on just about any budget.

hra-health-reimbursement-accountHRAs: Health Reimbursement Accounts

In 2016, new federal legislation made Health Reimbursement Accounts available to small businesses. This is a way to reimburse your employees, tax-free, for the cost of health insurance, without actually offering a group plan. 

This is a great option for small businesses that don’t have the time or resources to administer a health plan. It also allows employees to choose a health plan for themselves, while still receiving a valuable benefit from the company. 

HRA costs are tax deductible, just like health insurance. 

health-sharing-plans-for-small-businessHealth Sharing Plans for Small Business

Healthcare cost sharing is not insurance, but it is designed to function similarly. Because medical cost sharing is about half the monthly cost of unsubsidized individual plans, it makes sense that more people than ever are switching to health sharing. 

With health sharing for small businesses, members pay a monthly contribution amount into a shared pool. When a member incurs a medical expense, the plan pays out based on a fixed compensation system. 

All health sharing organizations work a little bit differently. Most of them require a statement of faith or a statement of principles in order to become a member. Usually this is a signed commitment to a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. 

Healthsharing comes with some limitations, including long wait times for some pre-existing conditions. Details can vary widely from plan to plan; be sure to discuss health sharing with your advisor before purchasing. 


As a small business, your options for employee health benefits are not as limited as you think.  If small group insurance is not a good fit for your company, we can help you find an option that is.  

Since 2004, our team of professional advisors has been dedicated to matching small, local companies with the type of benefit that works for them. From HRAs to health care cost sharing, there are some cost-saving alternatives on the table that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Your benefits advisor can explain more. Call us today at 800-913-0172, or click here to make an appointment.  


Health insurance plans that are HSA qualified can be viewed in our health insurance instant quote results. HSA-qualified plans will have a blue HSA symbol.

Choose your state below to get a free health insurance quote for both HSA-qualified and non-HSA health insurance plans.

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Health sharing plans are not insurance but a more affordable way to make sure your family is protected from unexpected medical expenses. Health sharing means that the group is helping to cover each other's medical bills.

Choose your state below to get a free quote on our low-cost health sharing plans.

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