A lot of people are doing a lot of great writing about what the Affordable Care Act means for millions and millions of Americans who are already benefiting, and the more who will benefit soon. In my latest essay for Salon, I wanted to take a different approach — and look back to 2009, when the Affordable Care Act was being debated, to remember why we so desperately needed health care reform in the first place. Here’s how my essay begins:

Back in late March of 2010, Rihanna and Bruno Mars were at the top of the Billboard charts, “The Hurt Locker” had just won the Oscar for best film, and Sony Music sold the rights to Michael Jackson’s music catalog. Also, the United States was spending almost $1 trillion more per year on healthcare than other developed nations, but for poorer health outcomes. Medical costs were skyrocketing, threatening to double premiums within just a few years. Almost two-thirds of bankruptcy filings in the country were due to medical debt, though most of those affected nonetheless had health insurance. And over 45 million Americans lacked any health insurance coverage whatsoever.

You can read the rest of my essay here — and be grateful that, hopefully, these horror stories are now firmly in America’s past.