Why Names Matter — the ACA vs. Obamacare

Thursday, November 2, 2017

John Baackes, CEO of L.A. Care, talks about why the media should stop referring to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as "Obamacare." His op-ed was published on the site of the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.

Baackes looks at how opponents of the ACA have successfully turned "Obamacare" into one of the most negative political terms of our time. He believes that continuing to use "Obamacare" overshadows the positive, life-saving features of the ACA. The negativity it produces only serves to make policymakers more unwilling to protect and improve the ACA that has enabled millions to have access to healthcare. Perception matters.

I’ve had conversations about this with reputable, intelligent journalists who have admitted to grappling with the same dilemma. "Do we use 'Obamacare,' adding fuel to the polarizing fire because the term is more widely recognizable? Or do we begin to phase it out since it has now become bigger than any one administration, and the term could potentially stymie progress?" they ask.

It will help those of us who are trying to make legitimate improvements to the ACA if it is not politicized every time it is referenced. Phasing out the use of Obamacare is a step in that direction.

The New York Times reported that one-third of Americans don't know that Obamacare and the ACA are the same thing. It's a serious perception problem, as indicated by polls like one by NBC News, which showed that a majority of registered voters in Kentucky had a negative view of Obamacare. But only 22 percent had an unfavorable view of their own state’s ACA exchange, even though they are fundamentally the same thing. 

Read the full op-ed, “Dear journalists, can we please stop calling the ACA Obamacare?” by John Baackes at the Center for Health Journalism


About L.A. Care Health Plan

L.A. Care Health Plan is a public entity and community-accountable health plan serving residents of Los Angeles County through a variety of health coverage programs including L.A. Care Covered™,  Medi-CalL.A. Care Cal MediConnect Plan and PASC-SEIU Homecare Workers Health Care Plan. L.A. Care is a leader in developing new programs through innovative partnerships designed to provide health coverage to vulnerable populations and to support the safety net. With more than 2 million members, L.A. Care is the nation’s largest publicly operated health plan.