MARQUETTE — A group dedicated to serving thousands of uninsured Upper Peninsula residents celebrated fifteen years of success Tuesday.

The Medical Care Access Coalition was created in 1999 as a way for low-income residents to have access to healthcare.  The organization coordinated care between hospitals and doctors to provide medical care at no cost or a very low cost.

“We knew we couldn’t solve the health problems of the whole United States, but at least in our local community we could help our fellow Marquette County members,” MCAC board member Dr. Thomas LeGalley said.  “And then eventually over time we had such a good example, it expanded to cover the whole Upper Peninsula.

MCAC enrolled over 1,000 residents in its first year, and covered about 1,500 people every year since then.

“Not all of them required medical care but at least were enrolled in the program so they had access to medical care if they needed it,” LeGalley said.

“There’s anecdotal stories about cancers being picked up that might not have been picked up otherwise, and it was just our community helping our community members, it was one person helping another.”

U.P. residents in Marquette, Alger, and Schoolcraft counties who were enrolled in MCAC will now be enrolled in state or federal Medicare and Medicaid programs