AUGUSTA — On Nov. 1, open enrollment through the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace began again. After four years with the marketplace, it’s worth taking stock of how things are going.

Thanks to the ACA, over 10 million people nationwide have health insurance – 75,000 just in Maine. Although this is a huge achievement for our country, news headlines, candidate speeches and political advertisements declare that the ACA should be scrapped entirely.

Millions of families have gained peace of mind from the financial security that comes with coverage. Before the ACA, people with pre-existing health conditions like cancer could be denied coverage or face lifetime or annual limits; now they can’t.

Consumers no longer have to pass health screenings, which allowed insurers to deny them coverage for hundreds of common conditions – sometimes denying as many as 40 percent of applicants.

Before the ACA, many young adults went without health insurance just as the economy cratered, leaving them unemployed and uninsured; now they can stay on their parents’ plan until age 26.

Too many people used to skip preventive services such as cholesterol screening, mammograms or colonoscopies because they couldn’t afford them; now many of these services are provided at no cost. Women were charged significantly more than men for coverage, but not anymore.

Eliminating the ACA would end all these benefits and turn the clock back.

Every day at Consumers for Affordable Health Care, we talk to people like Lauren, who told us how the marketplace kept her covered when years of chronic health problems finally led her to a diagnosis of a rare autoimmune condition and a path to wellness. Nancy told us that the marketplace lets her stay covered year-round when her seasonal job ends, and Susan described how the marketplace gave her the chance to explore new career options and pursue dreams that were unthinkable before she had these coverage options.

We hear about the struggles people still face in affording care, too. Our job is far from complete. Whether you get your health coverage through your employer, the marketplace or Medicare, rising premiums, copayments, deductibles and spiking prescription drug costs strain family budgets.

For that reason, we urge our current and soon-to-be newly elected officials to get to work making sure everyone can obtain affordable care by supporting real solutions to boost and fund enrollment efforts, expand access to coverage and address the underlying drivers of health care costs here in Maine.

Leveraging the government’s powers to negotiate lower drug prices for consumers, changing the way insurance companies pay doctors and hospitals to incentivize improved health outcomes, and increasing cost-sharing subsidies to lower deductibles for more middle-income individuals are all steps we can and should take to make health care better and more affordable.

In the meantime, we and hundreds of health insurance navigators and assisters across the state are ready to help Mainers enroll. If you don’t already have insurance through a job or through a government program like Medicare or Maine-Care, now is your chance to see what is available through

Depending on your income and household size, you may qualify for assistance to lower the cost of your plan. A family of four making up to $97,200 may be eligible, and 6 out of 7 Mainers who bought insurance through the marketplace last year received assistance with the cost of their plans.

When your premiums increase, so do your tax credits, which shields you if costs go up. And don’t forget: The penalty for going without coverage increases every year. Why pay something for nothing?

If you already have a marketplace plan, open enrollment is your chance to shop around and save money. The choices you have can change from year to year. Last year, people who shopped around saved on average $40 a month, or $480 a year. Why leave money on the table?

You can sign up between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15 for a plan that starts Jan. 1. Best of all, local experts are ready to help you sign up, at no cost to you. You can find help by entering your ZIP code at locator, or by calling us toll-free at 1-800-965-7476.

As we move into open enrollment, we are committed to helping people like Lauren, Nancy and Susan get quality, affordable coverage. We must continue to move forward, not backward, to ensure that affordable options are available for everyone. We hope our elected officials will join us.