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Posted at 9:15 AM ET, 01/ 5/2011

Why doesn't the left like 'ObamaCare'?

By Jennifer Rubin

A number of readers have complained that I use the term "ObamaCare" when referring to the Affordable Healthcare Act. I find this odd, since liberals are apparently very happy with the "historic" legislation and are welcoming a debate on the repeal vote. It seems I am not alone. Over at the Corner on NRO's Web site, several bloggers discuss the same subject. Ramesh Ponnuru puts it best, I think:

When I first started calling it Obamacare, the president's popularity didn't make it clearly pejorative. I used the word because it was convenient: more succinct than any alternative. My editors at Time picked the headline "The Fatal Flaw of Obamacare" back in August 2009. I suppose it could have said, "of the health-care bill" or "of H.R. [whatever it was]" or "of the ACA" (assuming it had been so named by then). Only "Obamacare" is both short and (as a term) comprehensible. Also, I had the precedents of ClintonCare and Romneycare on my side.

If the new health-care law eventually becomes popular and then unquestioned, as liberals hope, they'll be the ones seeking to keep it labeled "Obamacare."

Moreover, calling it "health-care reform" implies that there is "reform" contained in the legislation. That's a premise I don't agree with. In the event it survives constitutional challenge and Republican attempts at repeal, ObamaCare will certainly transform health care in America. That is different, however, than "reform," which is defined as "To improve by alteration, correction of error, or removal of defects; put into a better form or condition."

Conservative critics have made the case, and will continue to do so with the assistance of oversight hearings, that ObamaCare would not improve the system but in fact would makes care worse and increase costs. (We have seen some of this already.)

Yuval Levin, a former domestic policy adviser in the Bush administration and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, summed up why conservatives believe ObamaCare does not advance the stated goals of its supporters:

It would provide government-funded or subsidized insurance to many millions of people who already have private insurance (along with many millions who do not), and would transform the way the private insurance and health-care markets operate in an effort to impose price controls to contain the growth of costs. It puts into practice the notion that the way to make health-care financing more efficient is to make it a centralized system managed largely by the government, so that the only way to really squeeze costs is to tighten price controls.

If you do not think that this is how economic efficiency happens, then you cannot expect any form of this approach to address the basic problem with American health care, and indeed you would expect this approach to result in lower quality and less readily available care. To fix that basic problem you have to undo this system and start over, with the aim of allowing consumer choice and competition (the actual sources of efficiency in a free economy) to keep health-care costs down.

As for what to call it, historic legislation has often been named for its author or principal advocate. The "Marshall Plan" (actually, the European Recovery Program) was a tribute to George C. Marshall. "McCain-Feingold" (that would be, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act) was readily adopted by cheerleaders for regulation of campaign finance. Likewise, the "Pell grants" (technically, the Basic Educational Opportunity Grants) were lauded by advocates of college aid and acquired the title as a tribute to Senator Claiborne Pell (D.-R.I.). So, really, why not "ObamaCare"? Perhaps it is an indication of just how unpopular Obama's signature legislative accomplishment has become that the president's most devoted supporters would rather not identify it as his handiwork.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 5, 2011; 9:15 AM ET
Categories:  Obamacare  
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Remember, it's all about "messaging". ObamaCare sounds too much like government (which, of course, it is). Health Care Reform, well, that sounds better!

Posted by: BigGator5 | January 5, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Given how my health insurance premiums have jumped by 20% since the passage of Obamacare excuse me if I'm less than enthusiastic about it. And no I don't have an employer subsidized insurance plan as I'm self insured.

Posted by: werehawk | January 5, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Until consumers have some exposure to cost, they will not do anything to minimize them - this has been shown time and again. That was the hope of health savings accounts and high deductible policies.

Also, the tax treatment of insurance and getting it through your employer also distorts the market (it's pretax money for the employer). Individuals should purchase it themselves - it's an artifact of WWII wage controls.

Posted by: timInCT | January 5, 2011 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Whatever you want to call it. The nutcases at National Review and Fox News wanted to call it BarakHusseinObamacare but chickened out. It should be referred to as ObamaLetHimselfBeScrewedByRepublicans&TheInsuranceIndustryCare bill which would more accurately reflect the final bill.

Nevertheless, it is a necessary first step toward finally acting like a civilized country and providing health care to all without bankrupting tens of thousands per year. After the Republicans have their little juvenile snit by voting for repeal in the House (for an encore, they will NOT all decline government health care coverage provided by taxpayers for themselves and their families), the country will get on with a long term effort to fix the program and bringing costs under control before the entire country is bankrupted. It will be inevitably messy and Republicans, through Fox News, their propaganda dissemination vehicle, will make it as difficult and expensive as possible since they believe that working people must send their sons to die in unnecessary wars but aren't entitled to affordable health care.

Call it Obamacare if you like. That's fine. But twenty years from now Obama and Obamacare will be remembered much as Roosevelt and Social Security are remembered. And people will recall that Republicans tried to stop social security too.

Posted by: Lazarus40 | January 5, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Okay by me. I liked the old name better anyway - socialized medicine.

Posted by: Larry3435 | January 5, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

"As for what to call it, historic legislation has often been named for its author or principal advocate."

Since Obama ADVOCATED and ran and wono on the campaign promise of a public option and didn't author any of the reform bill, Rubin makes the case against calling it ObamaCare without having either the intellectual honesty or intellect to understand. What we got was an insurance industry friendly legislation,(Thanks Blue Dogs and Rethugs) not reform that would cut costs and provide affordable health insurance to everyone.

Posted by: fingersfly | January 5, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Several comments here have blamed republicans for various provisions in Obamacare. This is ridiculous. Only one republican voted for the bill that was passed. (Joseph Kao of LA, now defeated.) The democrats own this bill 100%. They wrote it, they voted for it, if they want to be honorable they should accept the responsibility that comes with power.
Of course they can go ahead and blame the blue dogs if they want. There are precious few of these left, and they've all been replaced by republicans.

Posted by: mikem23 | January 5, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I would not bet on this law lasting.....such a personal piece of legislation was passed with almost zero GOP support and strong public opposition. And it's not getting more popular. I think it will be picked to pieces and rendered effectively repealed in a few years.

Also, given how leftists hide their pro-abortion agenda behind the term 'pro choice,' I don't get why they get upset about Obamacare. And no, I'm not an abortion zealot. Just making an observation.

Posted by: jmpickett | January 5, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

"Bush Tax Cuts", "Obamacare", uh...who cares?

Posted by: danw1 | January 5, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

When the left is squealing like this it's a very good sign--"Obamacare" as racist slur!

This should be great fun. Are the Republicans planning on forcing the Democrats to keep voting for Obamacare over and over again, while at the same time holding continuous hearings on all the deleterious effects it is having, and reminding people of the devious and corrupt manner in which it was passed? Can they keep doing that--pass a bill repealing Obamacare every couple of months or so? I can't remember any majority ever doing something like that, but what would stop them?

Like I said, this should be great fun!

Posted by: adam62 | January 5, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

By the way, Ms. Rubin, you have noted the objection to "Obamacare," but you haven't noted the commenters who have complained that you inflate the numbers in opposition to Obamacare by including those who oppose it for not being leftist enough. It's important to take this into account, because if part of the Republican strategy is not only to force the Democrats to affirm their support for this wretched law repeatedly, but to gradually pick off enough to actually get it through the Senate and overturn a veto (even if we have to wait until 2013) and, in general, create "momentum" in that direction--if that's the strategy, then the fact that some congresspeople and many of their constituents object to all the compromises with the insurance companies, etc., in the law, provides a graceful way out for them--in other words, both political and media strategies should take into account the possibility of leveraging that utopian leftist opposition on behalf of repeal. Those who went along, despite their dissatisfactions, did so because they assumed it was the first step in a long trek toawrds outright socialization--now that such a prospect seems much more distant, they may prefer to opt out. Republicans should remind them of this repeatedly.

Posted by: adam62 | January 5, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

So, will the No Label people who object to “ObamaCare” now, when they saw nothing wrong with it a year and a half ago, suddenly stop referring to people in the Tea Party Movement as teabaggers (unquestionably an infinitely more odious term than ObamaCare)?

Here is a suggestion: The “No Labels” group should change their “No Label” label to the “No Hypocrisy” group; that way they can maximize the effect.

Posted by: nvjma | January 5, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Everyone thinks Obamacare is so great because it's affordable. It's affordable because other people are paying for it. Those other people work hard to achieve the American Dream! Obmamacare will put this country behind not out front where we need to be.Join the only REAL petition and solution to stop Obamacare. Sign the Repeal Pledge and save America.

Posted by: jararlidge | January 12, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

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