When President Obama signed his landmark health care reform measure into law two years ago today, there was no shortage of debate surrounding the package, and not all of it was policy focused. For example, what were we supposed to call it?
These major pillars of American public life need good names. We all know what Social Security is. We all know what Medicare is. But the health care reform law's given name -- the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- didn't exactly roll off the tongue, and PPACA was unwieldy.
Following Matt Yglesias' lead, I always liked the "Affordable Care Act," or "ACA," while the right went with "Obamacare." I was never fond of that name -- the health care law, it seemed to me, was about us and our ability to seek quality care we can afford, not about the president -- and it's not like anyone was running around referring to Medicare as Johnsoncare or Social Security as FDR Security.
But it was hard not to notice the ubiquity of the "Obamacare" label, and in an interesting move, the president's re-election team has decided to embrace it with both arms. David Axelrod sent an email to supporters this afternoon with a subject line that read, "I like Obamacare." The letter said:
The Obama campaign's new website
I like Obamacare. I'm proud of it -- and you should be, too.
Here's why: Because it works. So if you're with me, say it: "I like Obamacare."
Obamacare means never having to worry about getting sick and running up against a lifetime cap on insurance coverage. It gives parents the comfort of knowing their kids can stay on their insurance until they're 26, and that a "pre-existing condition" like an ear infection will never compromise their child's coverage.
It's about ending the practice of letting insurance companies charge women 50 percent more -- just because they're women.
And Obamacare can save seniors hundreds of dollars a year on prescription drugs -- and gives them access to preventive care that is saving their lives.
The email also refers supporters to a new "I Like Obamacare" website.
This doesn't completely come out of nowhere. Back in October, the president told an audience, "They call it Obamacare. I do care, that's right. The question is, why don't you care?"
But this new, unambiguous embrace of the name Republicans have used derisively for years is something neither the White House nor the president's campaign team has done before.
Incidentally, while the political/rhetorical shift is interesting, let's not overlook the policy. Axelrod's email boasts that the law "works," and it's worth considering whether he's right.
From where I sit, there's no real doubt that he is. Much of the Affordable Care Act won't take effect until 2014 -- assuming it survives until then -- but several provisions that have already been implemented are having a positive impact.
The health care law (1) is combating fraud and abuse, which in turns saves Americans quite a bit of money; (2) has brought coverage to 2.5 million young adults; (3) is delivering major savings to seniors on prescription drugs; (4) is giving a boost to small businesses through ACA tax credits; (5) has slowed the growth of Medicare spending; (6) has provided new treatment options for cancer patients; and (7) has offered new coverage protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
These are tangible, real-world benefits, making a meaningful difference in people's lives.
I'm well aware of the polls. The right has invested an extraordinary amount of time, energy, and cash into convincing the public that the reform law is a freedom-crushing disaster, hell bent on destroying Western Civilization. The p.r. offensive has taken its toll, and Americans who don't know much about the law's details have been misled -- there's ample data that shows the public loves what's in the Affordable Care Act, even if they think they oppose the law itself.
But if we ignore perceptions and deal with reality, "Obamacare" is, in fact, delivering on its promise, and helping millions of families who need the support.