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12.7.16 With the recent U.S. election and President-elect Trump pledging to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA for coverage face an uncertain future. Though the ACA has faced fierce opposition and is far from perfect, one thing is certain: The health care law has given millions of Americans health coverage, fought discriminatory practices used by insurance companies, improved overall health care access and made it illegal to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, among other victories. As the new administration considers sweeping changes to the ACA, patient groups and community organizations throughout the nation are working together to build on the ACA’s progress and push for a better American health care system. This is especially important right now, as many consumers are looking at health plans for the coming year. The I Am Essential Coalition is a broad group of patient and community organizations representing millions of patients and their families. Originally founded to ensure that patients’ voices were heard throughout the development and implementation of the ACA, I Am Essential continues to advocate for quality and affordable care access and patient protections. Many people still face barriers in the health insurance marketplace – especially people with chronic conditions. During the open enrollment period (patients have until Dec. 15 to sign up at for coverage starting Jan. 1), I Am Essential is urging consumers to consider all of the costs of plans as they choose between their options. “Much attention has been given to the cost of premiums, but other ‘hidden’ costs such as deductibles, coinsurance, and copays significantly impact affordability and access to necessary care and treatment,” the organization said in a recent email signed by Beatriz Duque Long of the Epilepsy Foundation, Carl Schmid of The AIDS Institute and Andrew Sperling of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Considering these costs is especially important for beneficiaries with chronic and serious conditions. As we support robust enrollment, join us in amplifying the #BeyondPremiums message so that beneficiaries are equipped to find the best and most affordable coverage based on their own needs.” For chronic disease patients, access to quality health care is not getting any easier, as insurance companies continue to exploit loopholes in the ACA to avoid providing the care patients need. Many patients, especially those with chronic conditions, have seen an increase in discriminatory tactics by insurers (read more by clicking here). In addition, insurers have even attempted to screen out patients with certain chronic illnesses by banning charitable assistance programs, possibly including crowd-funding. But where there is adversity, there is always hope. You can find tips for applying for health care coverage here. We, the Chronic Disease Coalition, and groups such as the I Am Essential Coalition, will continue to push for progress and protect patients from harm. You can also continue to advocate for your rights as a patient by joining us, and letting our new leaders know that you demand an effective and accessible health care system that puts patients first.