Although the $856 billion health care reform plan introduced Wednesday by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus will not require employers to provide health coverage benefits, the plan will reinforce competition within small group markets by offering state-based exchanges, co-ops and tax incentives to small businesses.

Similar to proposed individual market exchanges, small businesses would have access to state-based Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchanges. These exchanges would be web portals that “make comparing and purchasing health care coverage easier for small businesses.” The proposal would also provide a tax credit to small businesses offering health insurance. In 2011 and 2012, eligible employers would be able to receive a small business credit for up to 35 percent of their contribution.

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