‘Obamacare’ or ‘Affordable Care Act’?

What’s in a name? Everything when it comes to polling about the health care law, officially known as the Affordable Care Act.

In a new Fox News poll, 55 percent of those surveyed held an unfavorable view of the new law when the pollster referred to it as the Affordable Care Act. But when the name was replaced by “Obamacare,” the negative opinion increased to 60 percent.

Seventy-five percent of Republicans viewed the Affordable Care Act unfavorably — that jumped to 83 percent when “Obamacare” was used.

It was just one question on a lengthy poll, but it gives additional importance to a growing question inside newsrooms: Should it be referred to as “Obamacare?”

Recently, NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos addressed the complaints he gets on the point. Schumacher-Matos, once an opponent of using “Obamacare,” now is in favor of it, based on a response he got to the question from NPR’s managing editor for standards and practice.

Republicans coined the term “Obamacare” during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, seemingly as a means to generate opposition to the president’s health care initiative. During that time, NPR avoided using the term “Obamacare.”

Since passage of the legislation and its enactment into law, the president has said he rather likes the term “Obamacare” and it has gradually come into the vernacular as a shorthand for referring to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

I’m confident that NPR listeners and readers understand that whatever its origins, the term “Obamacare” has lost its pedigree as a politically charged term.

For its part, the White House seems to alternate the use of “Obamacare” with the Affordable Care Act.

  • davidz

    It used to be clear how someone felt about the law based on what they called it. That’s no longer the case. I think it’s fair to use either name today — as noted, even the President himself will use both terms. Obamacare is no longer a pejorative term used only by its opponents.

    As noted, the WH uses both terms. Are there any major news organizations that use one term or the other exclusively anymore? I see both regularly, but I don’t pay much attention as to whether they’re both used by one outlet.

  • MrE85

    If Obamacare works, the House can always vote to repeal the name.

  • Cat Zadra

    I work as an insurance coordinator for a surgical practice, and a large part of my work is calling insurance companies to verify benefits. Often, our patients are in the 18-26 age range, so I have to ask about the dependent age limits, because some plans have been “grandfathered in” and are not yet required to cover those kids. One day I asked a (relatively new) rep for a small local company, “What’s the dependent age on this plan?” She snidely replied, “There’s this new law called ‘ObamaCare’, so dependents have to be covered until age 26.”

    My answer: “Actually, the law is called the Affordable Care Act, and it doesn’t apply to every insurance plan, which I know because I’ve read large portions of it, but thanks for the information.”

    She’s been much more polite since then.

    • Canonchet

      The law is the ‘Affordable Care Act’ and that is what NPR should call it, as do other serious news news organizations. The term ‘Obamacare’ as coined as pejorative by Republicans for partisan political purposes and then deftly appropriated by Democrats for their poltical purposes. Either way, positive or negative, it is a marketing slogan, and as such does not belong in straightforward news reportage. A rough analogy would be “Reaganomics,” used as a term of praise by the late president’s admirers and of opprobrium by his detractors, which would not be used by NPR or AP or Reuters or the New York Times as an objective label for any specific set of fiscal measures.

      • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

        Actually, even Paul Krugman used “Reaganomics.” So did the Associated Press, the Wall St. Journal, Reuters, etc. It was coined by Paul Harvey, who was obviously a supporter.

        The use of a law’s actual name can be problematic. The “freedom to breathe” act is the smoking ban. Call it a smoking ban. That’s what it was.

        The Affordable Care Act is similarly politically inspired. We don’t know if it’s at all affordable. Yet.

        We could probably get away with just referring to it as “the health care law.” Everyone knows what that is.

  • steveh46

    Ironically, no matter what you call it, Republicans probably can’t tell you what’s in the law.