This blog was originally posted on the Families USA website.

The uninsured rate is at an all-time low, as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made it possible for 20 million, and counting, to get covered and stay covered.

However, news of steeply rising premiums is causing some consumers to wonder whether they will be able to find an affordable marketplace plan when open enrollment starts on November 1. Consumers seeking health insurance on the marketplaces may have better, and more affordable, options than they think. Here’s why.

Many people in the marketplace will not have to pay large premium increases

This is true for a few reasons.

  1. Nearly 85 percent of marketplace consumers are eligible for and currently receiving financial assistance: With this assistance, consumers are protected from spending more than a set share of their income on premiums. Therefore, they will not face a price increase when a health insurance company hikes up its rates.
  2. The way premiums are changing depends on where you live: While some areas are seeing large increases in premiums, other areas are actually experiencing decreases in premiums. Premium increases are not a universal experience across the country.  
  3. Most consumers will be able to choose from multiple plans: Despite discussion of insurers pulling out of the marketplaces this year, the fact is that most marketplace enrollees have multiple plans from which to choose. Just because one insurer’s prices are unaffordable doesn’t mean that all will be. 
  4. Consumers should explore all plan options to find a better deal: Consumers should explore all marketplace plans in their area to determine which is most affordable and likely to meet their needs. Many consumers who check each year to see if a more affordable plan is available are able to save money.

Marketplace plans provide important Affordable Care Act protections

All plans that consumers buy in the marketplace provide these and other important Affordable Care Act protections and benefits to enrollees: 

  • Preventive services, like cancer screenings, check-ups, and contraception, at no cost
  • Coverage for an essential set of benefits including prescription drugs, maternity care, and mental health care, which were often excluded from coverage before the ACA
  • The right for your children to stay on your health plan until their 26th birthday
  • Protections against higher premiums based on your health or because you are a woman
  • Bans on annual and lifetime dollar caps on coverage 
  • Requirements that insurance companies spend a set share of your premium dollars on care and quality improvement instead of administrative costs and profits. Insurers who don’t meet the requirements owe you a rebate check.

Consumers can enroll in coverage starting November 1

During this critical open enrollment season, it’s important to educate consumers about the opportunity they have to get health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Insurers cannot discriminate against people because of pre-existing conditions, and most people who get coverage through the marketplaces receive financial help to pay for it. 

It is essential that above the debates about the politics and policies of the Affordable Care Act, consumers hear the most important message of all: Open Enrollment for 2017 coverage starts November 1 and goes through January 31.

Consumers can visit to enroll in health coverage and to find local help choosing and signing up for a plan.

Heather Bates, Deputy Director, Enrollment Assister Network, Families USA and Claire McAndrew, Private Insurance Program Director, Families USA