Obama: ‘In five years it will no longer be called Obamacare.’

Just about everyone calls the Affordable Care Act "Obamacare" — even the White House. But is President Obama returning to his old stance that the health-care law should not have his name attached to it?

At a fundraiser in Potomac, Md., Monday night, Obama backed off the term that his administration shunned, and then embraced.

"First of all, in five years it will no longer be called Obamacare, because when something is working, they’re definitely not going to — there will be a whole renaming process similar to National.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know if it will be “Reagancare,” but it will definitely be — it will be something different," Obama told the crowd.

(For those of you outside the Washington area, Obama was referring to Washington National Airport, which was renamed Reagan National Airport in 1998).

This is the latest iteration of a semantic shuffle the White House has been playing for some time.


A tea party member reaches for a pamphlet titled "The Impact of Obamacare", at a "Food for Free Minds Tea Party Rally" in Littleton, N.H., in 2012. (Jessica Rinaldi/ Reuters)

Obama halted himself before getting out a full thought, but he signaled that Republicans won't want to attach his name to a law that, according to him, is successful. "because when something is working they’re definitely not going to," he said before shifting.

The term "Obamacare" was first coined by conservative Republicans as derogatory slang for a law they vehemently opposed. It was a fresh spin on "Hillarycare," which Republicans nicknamed Bill Clinton's failed attempt at health care reform in the 1990s — legislation that Hillary Clinton played a significant role in crafting. 

The White House distanced itself from the term, referring to the law by its proper name — the Affordable Care Act — or health-care reform. But as the name stuck, the White House shifted and tried to own the term.

"You want to call it Obamacare — that's okay, because I do care," Obama said at a 2012 fundraiser. The White House also touted the term on Twitter, asking supporters to send tweets with the hashtag #ilikeobamacare.

"On Obamacare, Republicans spent hundreds of millions branding Obamacare as a negative, and we believe we can turn that to our advantage,” said Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for Obama’s campaign, told The Post in 2012. “The term is incredibly popular with the president’s supporters, who will fight to the end to defend the law after 70 years of work to pass health reform.”

But language matters — a lot. And the difference between calling the law Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act is palpable, at least according to polls. 

According to a CNBC poll released last year, 46 percent of people said they were opposed to Obamacare; 37 percent said they were opposed to the Affordable Care Act. However, more people polled said they supported Obamacare than the Affordable Care Act.

In Kentucky, a Marist poll conducted for NBC News found that 57 percent of people polled said they were opposed to Obamacare, while a plurality of people said they had a favorable impression of Kynect, the state health exchange.

"Call it something else, and the negatives drop,” Marist pollster Lee Miringoff told NBCNews.com.

However, the White House has previously said something along the lines of Obama's comments on Monday. In 2012 — before the law was upheld by the Supreme Court — senior Obama adviser David Plouffe said Republicans might wish they hadn't branded the law with Obama's name.

"I'm convinced at the end of the decade, the Republicans are going to regret turning this [into] 'Obamacare,'" Plouffe told CBS News.

 

Katie Zezima covers the White House for Post Politics and The Fix.
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