Federal health care reform is here.
The new health care law is taking shape; its most significant elements are soon to be implemented.
The new law also is becoming a hot political issue; its opponents want it defunded or repealed, while its supporters preach patience.
Thanks largely to those factors, the law -- which requires all individuals to obtain health insurance, provides financial assistance to low-income citizens purchasing insurance, and establishes new health care regulations -- will be almost inescapable in the coming months.
That was evident in the tri-state area this week, as on consecutive days federal political figures held separate public events regarding the law.
Sam Clovis, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Iowa, held a town hall event Wednesday in Manchester, Iowa, in which he criticized the law and made the case for its repeal. He was joined by roughly a dozen citizens, many of whom also expressed their distaste for the law.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., held an informational session Thursday on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus. Kind framed the event as purely educational, not meant to persuade attendees -- of which there were approximately 80 -- of the law's merits.
The barrage is under way.
Political opponents -- mostly Republicans -- have targeted the law. Elected officials are attempting to strike it down, and candidates are cutting it down in stump speeches.
"I think there are a lot of these things that we find heinous in this bill that can be fixed relatively easy," Clovis said.
Clovis is one of four Republican candidates vying for Iowa's open U.S. Senate seat in 2014. (The others are state Sen. Joni Ernst, former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker and David Young, a former chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.) Clovis held Wednesday's event as a challenge to U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, a supporter of the health care law and the lone Democratic candidate for that same U.S. Senate seat.
Clovis said Braley held numerous town halls leading up to the law's passage in late 2009, but accused him of being silent on the issue recently.
Braley, who represents northeast Iowa in Congress, on Thursday responded to questions from the TH about his support of the law.
"The Affordable Care Act is already having a positive impact, reducing health care costs and helping consumers. For the past two years, health care cost increases have been held under 4 percent after going up for the previous decade at a rate three times that of inflation," Braley said through a spokesman. He then touted some of the law's provisions: that providers can no longer deny coverage based on preexisting conditions, the closure of a loophole that has reduced Medicare prescription drug costs, and coverage of screenings like mammograms.
Kind held sessions like the one in Platteville throughout his southwest Wisconsin district this week. He said they were designed to be informational and helpful to those seeking more information on the new law.
"I've heard from so many people, 'Ron, just tell us what the facts are: what's coming up, what we have to do, if anything,'" Kind said. "There's no question (there's) a lot of confusion, a lot of misinformation out there as well."
Complications with the law's rollout have provided fodder for opponents. One key mandate has been delayed to 2015 -- that all employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees must provide health insurance. And in many states, little information is known about the health insurance exchanges, virtual marketplaces where citizens will be able to shop among competing private insurance plans starting Oct. 1.
"I think that there are pieces of this that will never get implemented. I really do," Clovis said. "They need the exchanges to fund the Affordable Care Act. And these exchanges, if they don't get set up, they're not going to fund it."
Braley said the employer-mandate delay will make the law better in the long run. Kind acknowledged the law's rollouts have experienced speed bumps, and will probably have more in the future.
"I'm not here to convince anyone that the Affordable Care Act is a perfect bill, and that it's going to be implemented seamlessly without any hiccups or stumbles. Clearly it won't," he said. "But we were in desperate need of health care reform, to get a more efficient health care system so we get better outcomes at a better price, which is the ultimate goal for everyone involved."