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Obamacare creates choice. That’s why people like it.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Obamacare enrollees are more satisfied with their health insurance plans than those who get coverage outside the health law's marketplaces, a new survey finds.

J.D. Power and Associates on Thursday published a consumer satisfaction survey that looked at both people getting coverage through Obamacare and those who get coverage elsewhere, typically through their employer. They used a 1,000-point scale to measure how much people liked their coverage.

People who had coverage through Obamacare had an average satisfaction score of 696 in 2014, thinking back to their last year of coverage. During that same year, people in mostly employer-based plans had a satisfaction rating of 679 — 17 points lower.

This is a bit surprising: we know that the marketplace plans tend to offer less robust coverage than employer plans. Plans that get sold on the Obamacare market, for example, typically have higher deductibles and co-payments, meaning there are more out-of-pocket costs for the consumer.

So why would these plans score higher? The J.D. Power survey suggests that there's another variable enrollees think a lot about: choice. Their research also shows that people with employer-sponsored coverage who have "multiple plan options" have the exact same satisfaction rating as the people on Obamacare.

And this might actually circle back to the cost issue. People shopping on Obamacare have the option to decide whether they want a plan with a high premium or a low one. Shoppers have typically gravitated toward the lower-cost premium. The average monthly premium on is $374. For people getting coverage at work, the average premium is $464.

What this data suggests is that health-care shoppers seem to be okay with a trade-off: they like the idea of selecting a lower-premium plan, even if it might mean incurring higher out-of-pocket costs down the line — and are more satisfied customers as a result.