The battle over the Affordable Care Act plays out on TV screens across Arizona every day. Sen. John McCain's advertisements blast opponent Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick for supporting the massive overhaul of U.S. healthcare. Kirkpatrick said the only way it will get better is if both parties can reach across the aisle.
"The Affordable Care Act has been the law for six years," she said. "We need to come together in a bipartisan way and fix it. I've always said it's not perfect."
Many healthcare providers are dropping their coverage due to rising costs, leaving thousands without options. Kirkpatrick wrote a letter to Blue Cross Blue Shield when word broke Pinal County would not have an insurer on the marketplace in 2017. BCBS agreed to stay.
Kirkpatrick contends the Affordable Care Act is not a lost cause and testimonials from constituents reinforce for her that voting for Obamacare was the right choice. She said a man at a wedding once approached her about the law.
"He said I got cancer and I wouldn't be here today to walk my daughter down the aisle if had it not been for your vote," she said. "So I don't want to go back to the days when that father couldn't walk his daughter down the aisle."
But Michael Carlin, president of Wealth Management in Scottsdale, said something has to give. Healthcare spending per person is set to exceed $10,000 per year for the first time, according to a government report released over the summer. Premiums are expected to rise on average about 25 percent nationwide next year. Blue Cross Blue Shield is requesting a 51 percent increase.
"9 percent of the U.S. population is currently not covered by a health plan, which is the best we've seen," Carlin said. "It's great progress, but unfortunately it's coming at a real economic cost. We're just starting to see it get noticeably bad."
BCBS will be the only insurer on the marketplace in 13 of Arizona's 15 counties. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake introduced legislation that would exempt people from government penalties if they live in a county with one or no health insurance providers under the exchange.
"If there is ever an example of the failure Obamacare is, it's in Arizona," McCain said.
According to a spokesperson from Kirkpatrick's office, she is working on ways to increase participation in the marketplace and bring competition to rural areas. Carlin said the government needs to come up with a fix, and soon.
"If this is the trend, then what does this mean for Arizona, what does it mean for the U.S. economy and what does it mean for consumer spending?" Carlin said. "There's a whole series of dominoes that go with it."