Health Insurance

Can Part-Time Employees and Contractors Be Included in Group Health Insurance Plans?

Khang T. Vuong, MHA
Khang T. Vuong, MHA10 Jul 2023
  • Part-time employees and contractors eligibility for group health insurance plans depends on the size of the business, insurance company policies, and legal requirements.
  • Such insurance provision can attract and retain employees for employers and provide affordable healthcare access for part-time employees and contractors.
  • However, this can result in increased financial burdens and administrative complexities for employers and limited plan options for employees.
  • Other health coverage options include a marketplace insurance plan, Mira, Medicaid, short-term health insurance, or being added to a spouse's or parent's plan.

Group health insurance plans offer a certain flexibility that allow for the inclusion of both part-time employees and contractors. Nonetheless, such inclusions are subjected to various factors such as the size of the business, the insurance company's policies and the legal requirements to qualify for these plans (Group Health Plan Requirements, U.S Department of Labor).

Can You Include Part-Time Employees and Contractors in Group Plan?

The inclusion of part-time employees and contractors in group health insurance plans is largely governed by a legal framework. Legally, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not require employers to provide health insurance for part-time employees, defined as those working fewer than 30 hours per week. Moreover, independent contractors, who are not considered employees, fall outside the purview of health benefits typically provided to full-time staff by their employers. Whether a part-time employee or contractor qualifies for benefits ultimately depends on the employer's policy and the regulations of the specific insurance plan (Health Benefits for Part-time Workers, Investopedia).

Are You Required Legally Required to Provide Benefits To Part-time Workers and Contractors?

Employers have a significant level of discretion when it comes to extending health insurance coverage to part-time employees and contractors. Smaller businesses, in particular, tend to be more flexible with their health insurance offerings as a strategy to attract and retain talent. However, extending coverage to these groups can be cost-prohibitive for the employer and often depends on the specifics of the group health plan provided by their insurance company. It's important for employers to checkout the rules set forth by their health insurance provider and balance those considerations with the cost implications of expanding coverage (Health Benefits for Part-time Workers, Investopedia).

Benefits and Drawbacks of Including Part-time Employees and Contractors in Health Insurance Plans


1. Attracts potential employees

2. Helps retain current employees

3. Possible tax benefits

4. Boosts reputation as a socially responsible employer

1. Accessible and affordable health care

2. Increased security and sense of belonging

3. Enhanced motivation and productivity

4. Alleviated financial stress from medical expenses


1. Increased financial burden due to higher premiums

2. Administrative complexities

1. Limited plan choices

2. May not suit individual health care needs

Benefits for Employers

When part-time employees and contractors are included in health insurance plans, employers cultivate an attractive workplace environment, fostering both recruitment and retention. Furthermore, employers may reap tax benefits through deductions for contributions made towards employee health plans. This can also boost an organization's reputation as a socially responsible employer.

Benefits for Employees

For part-time workers and contractors, inclusion in group health insurance plans could mean more accessible and affordable health care. This provides them with a sense of security and belonging, enhancing their motivation and productivity. Having health coverage can also alleviate financial stress related to unexpected medical expenses.

Drawbacks for Employers

However, the inclusion of part-time employees and contractors in health insurance plans can also increase financial burden for employers due to higher premium costs. There may also be administrative complexities involved in managing these expanded plans.

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Drawbacks for Employees

For employees, a potential disadvantage could be limited plan choices, as they must accept the coverage selected by their employer. Some employees might prefer to choose personal coverage that better suits their individual health care needs.

Source: "The Pros and Cons of Providing Employee Health Insurance" by Balance Small Business.

Case Studies of Successful Inclusion

Starbucks' Approach

The coffee giant has long set the benchmark for part-time employee benefits. Starbucks offers health insurance to employees who work 20 or more hours per week. The company's eligibility requirement considers these part-time employees as full-time partners. Their package includes coverage for medical, dental and vision plans. Not only has this approach been beneficial in attracting talented part-timers, it has also underscored Starbucks' commitment to employee welfare, enhancing its image as a socially responsible employer.

Ride-Sharing Companies: Uber and Lyft

These ride-sharing companies, largely comprised of contract workers, are another example of successful inclusion of non-traditional employees in health benefits. As part of their efforts to provide a more secure working environment for their drivers, both Uber and Lyft have started experimenting with health coverage options. In certain markets, they've started programs that offer drivers access to discounted health insurance options. While these efforts are in their preliminary stages, they reflect an emerging trend towards acknowledging the health care needs of gig economy workers.

Source: "Group Health Insurance for 1099 Contractors: What Are Your Options?" by SimplyInsured.

Alternative Health Coverage Options for Part-timers and Contractors

Aside from company-offered group health insurance, part-time employees and contractors have several other health coverage options available to them. Insights from CNBC highlight these options, each with a different level of coverage, cost, and requirements.

Marketplace Insurance Plan

Part-timers and contractors can opt for insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace during open enrollment or a special enrollment period. These plans offer comprehensive coverage, but costs can be high if one doesn't qualify for a subsidy.

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For those with a low income, Medicaid can be a viable option. However, eligibility requirements vary by state, affecting who can receive this coverage.


Mira allows companies to offer essential in-person care, virtual care, mental health, lab tests, prescription, gym discounts, hospital negotiation, vision at only $55/month per person. 

Short-Term Health Insurance

Though not as comprehensive as other options, short-term health insurance is less expensive and could be a good fit for those in good health who just need coverage for unexpected situations like accidents or illnesses.

Spouse's Plan

If a part-time employee or contractor has a spouse with employer-sponsored insurance, they may qualify to be added to this plan.

Parent's Plan

Individuals under 26 have the option to stay on a parent’s health insurance plan, regardless of their marital or employment status.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can a part-time employee/contractor be included in a group health insurance plan?
Yes, but it largely depends on the policies of individual companies. Some employers include part-time employees and contractors in their group health insurance plans.

2. What are the benefits for the employer and the employee if part-time workers are included in health insurance plans?
For employers, providing health insurance can help attract and retain talent. For employees, it provides essential coverage and potentially greater job satisfaction.

3. What are the drawbacks for employers if they include part-time workers in their health insurance plans?
Including part-time workers in health insurance plans can lead to increased costs for employers.

4. Are there case studies of successful inclusion of part-time workers in group health insurance plans?
Yes, there are organizations that have been successful in making their group health insurance plans inclusive for part-time workers or contractors.

5. What are the alternative health coverage options for part-timers and contractors?
The main alternatives include marketplace insurance plans, Medicaid, short-term health insurance, spouse's plan, and a parent's plan.

Khang T. Vuong, MHA

Khang T. Vuong received his Master of Healthcare Administration from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. He was named Forbes Healthcare 2021 30 under 30. Vuong spoke at Stanford Medicine X, HIMSS conference, and served as a Fellow at the Bon Secours Health System.