My sister-in-law, Mandy, is a woman who loves Labrador retrievers, horseback riding and The Price is Right. She also has severe autism, a developmental disability which requires full-time care. She lives with three other women at Mandy’s Special Farm in Albuquerque, NM, a home founded by my mother-in-law, Ruthie, who had a dream that her daughter would be loved and cared for with dignity and diligence. After years of hard work and heartbreak, Ruthie achieved this goal — Mandy’s Special Farm is an amazing facility which provides individualized care for each of its residents ranging from specialized diets to music therapy.

Mandy’s Special Farm is fantastic, but it is also expensive. Like many people with disabilities, the cost of Mandy’s care is more than $100,000 each year — an insurmountable cost for so many families. For Mandy and other women like her, passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a terrific triumph that will help defray some of these enormous costs. The ACA allows parents to keep their children on insurance longer (to age 26) and it eliminates lifetime spending limits. It also ensures that children to age 19 with pre-existing conditions will not be denied coverage. And by 2014 some behavioral health services and therapies — critical for many people with autism — will be required to be covered by insurance.

For Mandy, passage of the ACA means services which help her thrive will be covered. For Ruthie, its passage means she’ll be even better able to help her daughter. And for our family, and the millions of families across the country who have a loved one with a disability, passage of the ACA brings greater peace of mind.

So even though we’re celebrating the ACA’s birthday, we are the ones getting the gifts.