Three years ago this week history was made when President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act of 2010 into law. No longer would families across America fear losing health coverage if they lost their jobs. No longer would insurance companies be allowed to deny coverage to millions of Americans because of pre-existing conditions. And no longer would rising health care costs be allowed to spiral out of control.

Connecticut is on the forefront of implementing the benefits of this law, and as the law continues to move forward, more states must follow our lead – working at every level of government to ensure the benefits and protections of this law are available to all Americans.

Reforming our health care system is something that every Presidential administration – both Democrat and Republican – for the past one-hundred years. Now thanks to the Affordable Care Act we finally have a blueprint for all Americans to get the health care they need. This new system is by no means a perfect one, but it is a far better path than the one we were on just a few short years ago and I am proud of the role that I played as acting Chairman of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee to help bring it about.

Countless men and women around the country tirelessly fought for years to bring much needed reforms to the way we provide health care in this country. People like my good friend Ted Kennedy who never gave up believing that we could be a nation that provided for the health and wellbeing of its citizens, or fighting to make it a reality; President Obama who never shied away from taking on this historic challenge; and of course my colleagues in the Connecticut delegation who helped make it possible – Joe Lieberman, Rosa DeLauro, John Larson, Joe Courtney, Chris Murphy, and Jim Himes.

The historic accomplishment that is the Affordable Care Act could never have been completed without the decades of dedication from people like them.

Today, Connecticut is among the states furthest along in enrolling its citizens into the new health exchanges. Beginning this October, men and women from Stamford to Woodstock, New London to Canaan, and every town in between, will be able to quickly and easily shop for the health plan that works best for them and their family through Access Health CT.

But just because the new exchange doesn’t start until later this year does not mean that families all across Connecticut are not already feeling the benefits from the reforms in this law. To start, more than 23,000 young adults in our state are now insured under their parent’s plans.

Efforts to make prescription drug coverage for those with Medicare more affordable led to more than 47,000 people in the state saving over $41.9 million on their prescription drugs just last year. That was an average of $880 per beneficiary.

Because this law no longer allows insurers to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, hundreds of people in Connecticut who were previously denied coverage had received coverage as of last August. 

And in 2011 and 2012, 945,000 men and women in Connecticut gained preventative coverage for services such as colonoscopy screenings, mammograms, and flu shots.

Benefits like these, and all the others that people across Connecticut received over the three years since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, are only the beginning. As additional provisions of this law begin to go into effect, people throughout Connecticut and our country will continue to feel more secure in their health coverage, see more options and services become available, and costs coming down. Three years later, much progress has been made but our work to bring quality, affordable care to all Americans continues.

Chris Dodd is a former U.S. Senator and led The Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions work on health care reform.