Affordable Care Act
Affordable Care Act

Despite what you may have heard about the impending demise of the Affordable Care Act at the hands of a conservative Supreme Court, open enrollment for 2021 coverage under the Affordable Care Act opens Nov. 1 and runs through Dec. 15. 

Yes, the Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in a case seeking to overturn the law, also known as Obamacare, in November after the presidential election, however a ruling wouldn’t be expected until next spring. 

The question of what will happen if the Supreme Court rules against the ACA is hard to answer.  The court might not throw out the whole law in a ruling against it. Some parts might stay, and when the changes might go into effect is another point that could vary from immediately to even sometime next year or later.  

So individuals already covered under ACA and those in need of insurance since they’re laid off and lost their employer-provided insurance should definitely make plans to review their plan or sign up during the open enrollment period. 

Here are a few things to know about 2021 coverage:

Rates Seem Stable

Facing a pandemic and unknown future costs for COVID-19 treatments, health insurers selling Affordable Care Act plans to individuals reacted by lowering rates in some areas and, overall, issuing only modest premium increases for 2021.

Although final rates have yet to be analyzed in all states, those who study the market say the premium increases they have seen to date will be in the low single digits — and decreases are not uncommon.

“It’s the third year in a row with premiums staying pretty stable,” said Louise Norris, an insurance broker in Colorado who follows rates nationwide and writes about insurance trends. “We’ve seen modest rate changes and influx of new insurers.”

That relative stability followed ups and downs, with the last big increases coming in 2018, partly in response to the Trump administration cutting some payments to insurers.

Those increases priced out some enrollees, particularly people who don’t qualify for subsidies, which are tied both to income and the cost of premiums. ACA enrollment has fallen since its peak in 2016.

It’s still worth it to shop around

Actuaries and other experts say premiums vary by state or region — even by insurer — for a number of reasons, including the number and relative market power of insurers or hospitals in an area, which affects the ability of insurers to negotiate rates with providers.

For consumers who rely on subsidies to help cover premium costs, be aware: subsidies are tied to each region’s benchmark plan – that’s the second-lowest-priced silver plan in a region – and since those premium costs may have gone down, subsidies also could decrease.

Switching to the benchmark plan can help consumers maintain how much they spend in premiums.

Update Your Financial


Enrollees should update their financial information, particularly this year when many are affected by work reduction or job losses. “They might be eligible for a bigger subsidy,” said Myra Simon, executive director of commercial policies for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry lobbying group.

Enrollees can update their information online, or call their federal or state marketplace for assistance. Insurance brokers, too, can aid people in signing up for ACA plans. When shopping, consumers should check whether the doctors and hospitals they want to use are included in the plan’s network.

Your choice of insurers may have widened.

More insurers, either stepped back into that individual market or expanded into new counties.  Premiums are just one part of the equation.

Consumers should also look closely at annual deductible, because the trade-off of going with a lower-cost premium may well be higher annual deductible that must be met before much of the coverage kicks in.

“We encourage people to consider all their options,” said Simon.

– Kaiser Health News 

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