Washington, D.C., has once again become a political battlefield, and the collateral damage is seeping into the rest of the country like toxic waste. The medium of the conflict is the the budget — without a stopgap funding measure known as a continuing resolution in place, Uncle Sam tripped into the new federal fiscal year (which began October 1) missing appropriations for all nonessential U.S. government activities — but the real fight is over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The ACA (or, Obamacare) is an overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system that was signed into law in Mach of 2010, and it is perhaps the single most controversial piece of legislation passed during the Obama administration. Ostensibly, the ACA increases both the affordability and coverage of healthcare through the use of mandates, subsidies, and exchanges. The law is designed to increase the overall quality and efficiency of the U.S. healthcare system via regulation, aiming to increase competition and adjust provider incentives.
Both public and political support for the law has fallen fairly exclusively along party lines. Broadly speaking, the GOP believes that not only is the law misguided (“government is not the solution to our problem”) but that its implementation would actually be catastrophic for the U.S. economy. On the other side of the aisle, Democrats believe that the existing healthcare system is broken, having failed to provide coverage for tens of millions of Americans, and that the overhaul catalyzed by the ACA is the only way to fix it.