It's no secret that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), more commonly known as just the Affordable Care Act (ACA), caused a lot of confusion for all concerned. One area of particular confusion for small businesses is the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).

Beginning January 2015, employers with more than 100 full-time employees will be required to offer affordable health coverage that meets a "minimum value," or be required to pay an Employer Shared Responsibility Payment penalty tax. Beginning in January 2016, employers with between 50 and 100 employees will be required to do the same.

Employers with fewer than 50 employees will not be required to offer health coverage. However, they can voluntarily choose to do so, and one of the options they can use is the SHOP marketplace, which consists of a network of federal and state-run exchanges.

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