Why "Obamacare" (the Name) Won't Matter

I don't know about you, but every time I read the term "Obamacare," I can't help but hear Michele Bachmann's voice saying it, in that singsongy Minnesota accent. But I guess Team Obama thinks I'm in the minority, because they've decided to go ahead and embrace the term. As David Axelrod wrote in an email to supporters, "Can you imagine if the opposition called Social Security 'Roosevelt Security'? Or if Medicare was 'LBJ-Care'? Seriously, have these guys ever heard of the long view?" Which is fine. There's nothing inherently pejorative about "Obamacare," unless you react with an involuntary retch every time you hear the name "Obama." The people who have used the term most enthusiastically up until now certainly do, so they thought that everyone else would be repelled by it. But the thing is, in the long run it doesn't really matter what we call the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That's because unlike Social Security or Medicare, Obamacare isn't actually a program. Which means that eventually, we won't be talking much about it at all.

People get checks from Social Security every month. People get their health insurance from Medicare. So when those programs come under attack, they immediately understand what it means and rally to their defense. But while the ACA (OK, OK, Obamacare) has wide-ranging implications and effects, it won't be a program in the same sense. Though many millions of people will have insurance because of Obamacare, no one will get their insurance through Obamacare. They'll get private insurance, or Medicaid.

In the decades to come (assuming the law is upheld), the provisions in the ACA will likely be modified, changed, and expanded. Once it fully takes effect in 2014, Republicans will stop talking about repealing the entire thing, and will focus whatever minimal remaining energy they have on health care on particular provisions they don't like. Because once it's in effect, they won't want to take away the things people will actually like and rely on (like the elimination of exclusions for pre-existing conditions). But those arguments will be about the particular provisions at issue. And before long, only historians will talk about "Obamacare."

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