If You Love It, Stop Calling It ‘Obamacare’

Using the name coined by its opponents is not helping the Affordable Care Act succeed.

Politics is a messaging and optics game. On the subject of an overhaul for a flawed health care system, the law should never have been about him. It should be about providing affordable and accessible health care to Americans. Period. The polling on “Obamacare” speaks for itself. On the eve of the ACA rollout, a CNBC poll discovered that “30 percent of the public [didn’t] know what ACA [was] versus only 12 percent [for] Obamacare.” Compounding that was the 46 percent who opposed Obamacare, versus the 37 percent who opposed the ACA. 

Weeks later, most pollsters stopped using “Obamacare” in their questions, perhaps wising up to the fact that respondents didn’t really know what they were being asked. But according to a YouGov poll, that hasn’t stopped public anger over the law and a finding that 42 percent want it repealed—even though 79 percent admit they’ve never visited Healthcare.gov. 

Maybe we can argue that a rocky rollout eventually helps force greater public awareness and understanding about a confusing law. Or maybe the White House could seriously push a principled discussion rather than a partisan conversation that merely results in locked horns with the opposition over who said what first and why they’re wrong. And are you going to stick by the name because you think it’s a snarky retort to the opposition, or are you going to get on with the business of providing people with needed services?

So what’s the problem? “Affordable Care Act” is only two syllables longer than the four-syllable Obamacare, and all you have to do is keep hashtagging #ACA—so you can’t make a plea for brevity. Any uninsured person with a little desperate sense would be more inclined to go with the Care that is Affordable rather than the care taken over as some special rhetorical shrine to a politician. Wouldn’t you?

Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist, Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune and chief political correspondent for Uptown magazine. When he’s not mad, he can be reached via Twitter.