Owning a small business can come with its fair share of pain-points, but providing health insurance coverage for employees doesn’t have to be one of them. There are numerous resources for small business owners to get the right information and the right coverage for their small team.


Are Small Businesses Required to Provide Health Insurance to Employees?

Legally, as a part of the Affordable Care Act, all businesses with less than 50 full-time employees are not required to provide health insurance. However, there are a lot of benefits for small businesses that do provide health insurance to their employees, including tax breaks and access to more affordable monthly premiums. Other benefits include boosting employee satisfaction and retention, better hiring practices, and an overall healthier, happier team.


One option for small employers is to utilize an HRA, or Health Reimbursement Arrangement, rather than a group health plan. This would mean they would simply assist with non-taxed reimbursement for their employees’ health care expenses. These expenses may be premiums, coinsurance, or minimum essential coverage through ACA. This means that despite employees paying their premiums outside of the company, they can submit those payments to their employer, who will then reimburse them, up to the annual maximum. To qualify for this, employers must have less than 50 full-time employees, provide the arrangement on the same terms for all employees, and must not offer any other coverages or plans such as flex spending accounts.


Important Open Enrollment Dates to Know

Whether you are offering group plan coverage or going with an HRA, your business needs to be aware of all the open enrollment dates and deadlines. For individual health coverage, open enrollment typically runs from November 1st through December 15th. Some states have exceptions and go into January, but you can check your specific state details here. Job-based plans can have open enrollment at any time of the year. This is specific to each individual employer.


To prepare for open enrollment within your business, Zenefits shared a helpful timeline that can help organize the steps in your open enrollment planning. Here is a month-by-month summary of what you should make sure you do in order to be prepared for a November kick-off date.



If providing a group plan, you should:

  • Ask for enrollment forms from the insurance carrier.
  • Let employees know enrollment forms will be distributed as early as October 1st.
  • Check for any changes to coverage or health care regulations for the coming year (2021).
  • Start building your enrollment packages for employees.
  • Make sure everyone can log in to the benefits enrollment portal.


If offering HRA only you should:

  • Gather all open enrollment information for your employees, and send out weekly reminders.
  • Solidify enrollment/qualification within your HRA arrangement.
  • Send out HRA notifications at the beginning of the month to comply with the required 90-day notification.


If providing a group plan, you should:

  • Remind employees of the start and end dates for submissions.
  • Ensure all employees have their enrollment package information by the first week of October.
  • Confirm the date that new insurance will be active in the new plan year and send it to employees.


If offering HRA only you should:

  • Continue sending weekly reminders for open enrollment deadlines to your employees.
  • Solidify dates your employees will be able to get reimbursed for costs.


If providing a group plan, you should:


  • Be aware that enrollment begins November 1st!


  • Notify employees they can begin submitting enrollments.
  • Make yourself available for questions and support during the open enrollment period.
  • Continue reminding employees of upcoming deadlines.


If offering HRA only you should:


  • Be aware that enrollment begins November 1st!


  • Notify employees they can begin submitting enrollments.
  • Continue reminding employees of upcoming deadlines.


If providing a group plan, you should:

  • Be aware that, depending on your state, your deadline could be the 15th.
  • Alert employees of the impending deadline to submit all enrollment documentation.
  • ALL enrollment must be completed by the December deadline (except for states with January deadlines).


If offering HRA only you should:

  • Be aware that, depending on your state, your deadline could be the 15th.
  • Alert employees of the impending open enrollment deadline.
  • Ask that employees let you know if they have completed enrollment, and send the information to you.


This is just a loose timeline for businesses to follow to ensure they don’t miss anything and aren’t scrambling to get information shared with their employees last minute. For those employees not on a job-based plan, you can send them to Healthcare.gov or MNsure.org, if in Minnesota, to get information on how and when to apply for insurance.


What Makes Open Enrollment Easier for Small Business?

Knowing all your resources for information is a great start, but there are a few things a small business must have to ensure a seamless open enrollment period.


  • Partnering with a health insurance representative will help you every step of the way.
  • Utilizing an easy-to-use benefits enrollment portal like Gusto, Zenefits, or BeneQuick.
  • Maintaining a solid communication plan between your business and your employees.
  • Building a notification schedule that will alert employees long before a deadline approaches.
  • Having one email address for employees to send all questions and concerns.
  • Being knowledgeable of all deadlines for your plan and open enrollment for Obamacare, and sharing those with your team.


How Can BeneQuick Help Small Businesses with Open Enrollment Planning?

As we approach open enrollment season, we want to ensure any current or potential clients of ours have all of the information they could possibly need before we enter the open enrollment season. BeneQuick is an excellent benefits enrollment portal for small businesses. BeneQuick focused on making benefits management as simple as possible allowing for use without the need for IT support. 


Small businesses that are offering coverage for the first time may need a little help with the planning process. We make it easy with simple tools and an even simpler portal. BeneQuick is very user-friendly, and we work with businesses to fit their needs and their budget. For more information, contact us or request a FREE demo.