A recent Jimmy Kimmel Live segment asked multiple people which health care plan they supported: Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. The people all answered that they supported the Affordable Care Act, but thought Obamacare was un-American. 

Of course, this entertainment video is in no way scientific, and the people chosen for the video may have been especially clueless and not representative of the American public. But it’s backed up by CNBC’s All-America Economic Survey in September. CNBC polled 812 respondents and asked half if they supported Obamacare and half if they supported the Affordable Care.

The results:

30 percent didn’t know what the ACA is. Only 12 percent didn’t know what Obamacare is.

29 percent support Obamacare, 22 percent the ACA.

46 percent oppose Obamacare, 37 percent oppose the ACA.

The poll found that gender and partisanship influence the results (men, independents, and Republicans are more negative on Obamacare than the ACA. Young people, Democrats, nonwhites and women are more positive on Obamacare). And the name Obama itself influences how people feel about the health care reform.

According to the New York Times, the Atlantic magazine found that the first use of the term Obamacare was in September 2007 by a campaigning Mitt Romney. Republicans embraced the term, and ever since then, they have been using it with derision. One strategist told the New York Times that calling it Obamacare politicized health care, which people don’t like. 

But Obama and Democrats have since attempted to reclaim the word. On the White House website, the reform is referred to as the Affordable Care Act — except for one section titled “Obamacare in three words: saving people money.” The White House Twitter account has also been tweeting about the act, referring to it as Obamacare. 

 Even Obama himself told supporters: “You know what? They’re right. I do care.”

Elise Viebeck writes for The Hill that the Obama administration must lure the young demographic for the system to work — if only older and sicker patients enroll, premium prices will skyrocket. They have to make Obamacare seem “cool.” Officials have even been asking celebrities to tweet their support of Obamacare and urge followers to #getcovered.

I’m sure administration officials feel that by tacking the name Obama on the health care act, they can make it sound cooler than the stodgy, official-sounding Affordable Care Act. After all, Obama has the “cool factor” down — his performance in campaigns and in office has always been as a hip, celebrity president. 

 And according to the CNBC poll, that seems to work for those who support the law in general. But for those who don’t, or aren’t sure if they do, the phrase Obamacare is a turn-off. 

I think the attempts by the Obama camp to reclaim the word have been unsuccessful — while the move technically makes sense, based off Obama’s performance and “coolness,” the administration did not account for the deep roots the Republicans have put down in disparaging the act.

“Once it’s working really well, I guarantee you they will not call it Obamacare,” Obama once told supporters in a speech. 

But there are still glitches and flaws in the health care system, days after enrollment for the health insurance marketplace opened. Republicans are still appealing to their constituents that defunding Obamacare is worth shutting down the federal government because the act is “un-American.” And now, when most people hear the word Obamacare (compared to the term Affordable Care Act), their initial reaction is seemingly based more on the political rhetoric than their actual opinion of the law.

Does a law by any other name smell as sweet? It doesn’t seem so.  

Works Cited

Baker, Peter. “Democrats Embrace Once Pejorative ‘Obamacare’ Tag.” The New York Times. 3 Aug. 2012.

Viebeck, Elise. “Seeking to Woo Youths, White House Attempts to Make ObamaCare Cool.” The Hill. 26 June 2013.

Liesman, Steve. “What’s in a Name? Lots When It Comes to Obamacare/ACA.” CNBC. 26 Sept. 2013.


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