For some on the left, the sun may be setting on the term “Obamacare,” the nickname used for a time by both Republicans and Democrats to describe the health insurance overhaul known as the Affordable Care Act.
Three weeks after the disastrous rollout of the law's health insurance exchanges, the White House and congressional Democrats are on defense against calls from Republicans to delay the law because of the ongoing glitches on the website. On Tuesday, one top Democrat, Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, acknowledged that the website for the exchanges needed to be fixed, but he also apologized after he referred to the law as “Obamacare.”
“I’m sure that if I were a Republican, I would yell and scream about it as well. They don’t like Obamacare. I think Obamacare — strike that — the Affordable Care Act, I’m sorry I called it that. I think the Affordable Care Act substantially is a good piece of legislation that will prove to be very beneficial to the American people,” Hoyer said during a briefing with reporters. When asked why he apologized for using the term, Hoyer said: “I think it’s a pejorative, I think it’s used as a pejorative. Obama says Republicans will stop using 'Obamacare' as soon as it starts working.”
To be sure, Hoyer never hopped onto the “Obamacare” bandwagon since the president signed it into law more than three years ago. But Democrats, who don’t seem to be using the term as much as they did last year, have good reason to say “Affordable Care Act” instead.
Public opinion polls and even an unscientific late-night TV comedy case study suggest that Americans have a better opinion of the law when it is referred to as the “Affordable Care Act” than “Obamacare.” Last month, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel aired a man-on-the-street video showing how some people don’t even know that “Obamacare” and “The Affordable Care Act” are the same law.
The term has a mixed past. In 2009, when Congress was still debating the bill, tea party demonstrators and Republican lawmakers concocted it early as a rhetorical weapon against the bill. The name stuck, and conservatives continued to use the term while trying to repeal the law. In 2011, Democrats tried to ban usage of "Obamacare" from all campaign literature and some even decried it as "racist."
But in spring of 2012, when the Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments over the law’s constitutionality, Obama himself adopted the term and urged supporters to use it. All of the sudden, he started using the phrase on the campaign trail. The website for his re-election effort began selling buttons that read, “I like Obamacare.” Obama’s campaign gave activists signs that used the word positively.
“I don’t mind it being called Obamacare because, it’s true, I do care," Obama said in 2012.
But for now, it seems, it’s back to Affordable Care Act.