Nomenclature is important. It changes how we talk about or view everything from social and political positions to where we buy our groceries. I am not going to argue the merits of the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare. I am interested in a conversation about the possible impact of allowing the Affordable Care Act to be known as “Obamacare” to the public. I am interested in whether calling it “Obamacare” helped or hindered the Affordable Care Act. And more importantly the people it seeks to serve.
Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act
The Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign coined the phrase “Obamacare” during the primaries in 2007/08 to differentiate between the candidates’ health care plans. The name stuck and attached the Affordable Care Act bill to President Barack Obama versus connecting it to uninsured, businesses, and the country – those it seeks to serve.
I wonder if allowing the Affordable Care Act to be referred to as “Obamacare” limited thoughtful public debate – rather diminishing it to an “us” vs. “them” battle between Republicans and Democrats. Did the public either support or reject the bill in solidarity to party or view it as a wedge issue without having a real conversation about the bill? Would having the public think of the bill as the Affordable Care Act prompt the obvious question of affordability?
The benefits of the Affordable Care Act
If the public had discussed a bill called the Affordable Care Act the dialogue may have been different. The name may have prompted the question of whether it was indeed presenting affordable preventative health care for employees. Discussions about the Affordable Care Act, not Obamacare, may have prompted the following questions at dinner and poker tables across the county:
- What will be the impact of providing health care insurance for full-time employees have on small or medium business?
- When small and medium businesses adjust to adhere to the rules, will the bill actually accomplish the goal?
- How will this put employees in jeopardy of not being able to make a living?
- How will the requirements that small and medium businesses provide insurance impact the viability of the business?
- What happens to the employee who now has part-time work and faces fines for a lack of health insurance? (How does that work!?)
- For who is the Affordable Care Act actually affordable?
With more constituents asking those questions, perhaps non-partisan solutions may have been found. There needs to be more accessibility to affordable preventative care for all Americans. But perhaps there would be a stronger bill that served the public without the need to engage in partisan politics.
By talking about “Obamacare” rather than the Affordable Care Act, the bill became a partisan and polarizing issue rather than a bill that made us question the affordability of the Affordable Care Act. I wonder if that kept us from accomplishing the greater goal: employed and contributing members of society who have more access to preventative health care.