Written by: Ryan Sullivan, Policy Director at Michigan Consumers for Healthcare We might think of medicine in sterile terms. Disinfectants, wrapped instruments, sterilized environments. Healthcare reform, however, is very messy. And you all know it.This week we celebrate you, the people who made the Affordable Care Act come alive in our communities across Michigan. It’s the fifth Anniversary of the ACA, and it couldn’t have happened without you. Immediately after President Obama signed the act into law, Americans began to benefit as decades of harmful insurance practices came to an end. Children could no longer be banned from coverage for life for being born with a “pre-existing condition.” Adults followed a couple years later, securing access to coverage for 130 million Americans who could otherwise be denied in the past. As the months rolled on, states began establishing Essential Health Benefits that meet the needs of real human beings. More work remains, but “junk” health insurance policies were shown the door. More than 16 million formerly uninsured Americans now have healthcare coverage after two open enrollment periods. Tax credits helped them afford the coverage they and their families need for private coverage. A network of navigators and assisters sprung up to guide millions through the process. There were bumps, but you didn’t stop. You fought for Michigan to draw down federal funds to expand coverage for low income residents through the Healthy Michigan Plan, then blasted past all expectations for enrollment. Nearly 600,000 Michiganians can now get the coverage they need despite low incomes. The fact remains: fighting for healthcare reform, and the justice it brings, is never a clean, sterile process. It is messy, it is tiring, and it is hard. That’s why we ask all of you to take a moment and wash off that struggle. Savor the words, “Happy Fifth Anniversary!” They represent your dedication, tenacity and ongoing success. This week, we’re celebrating you: You’ve saved lives; you’ve prevented bankruptcies; you’re helping people find the dignity and empowerment they’ve never had. You are our heroes. Here’s to next year!