Democrats like health reform better when it’s called ‘Obamacare.’ Republicans not so much.

Welcome to Health Reform Watch, Sarah Kliff’s regular look at how the Affordable Care Act is changing the American health-care system — and being changed by it. Sandhya Somashekhar is filling in while Sarah’s away, and you can reach her with questions, comments and suggestions here. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon for the latest edition, and read previous columns here.

(REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)
(REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)

It's no secret that the term "Obamacare" gets a reaction from people. But some new numbers from the Kaiser Family Foundation suggest it's true not just for critics of the health law.

According to the nonpartisan group's June tracking poll, support for the health law among Democrats jumps dramatically when labeled "Obamacare," vs. the plain old "health reform law" language some of us old school media types prefer. (Fun fact: The Washington Post stylebook discourages the use of the word "reform" because it implies change for the better. Some words it suggests instead are "restructuringretooling and revision.")

According to the poll, overall favorability of the law jumps from 35 percent to 42 percent when the term "Obamacare" is used. That's almost entirely due to the enthusiastic reception it gets from Democrats, 58 percent of whom responded favorably to "health reform law," compared with 73 percent for "Obamacare."

Independents in the poll reacted about the same to both descriptors (about a third responded favorably while around a half responded unfavorably). Among Republicans, 76 percent responded unfavorably to "the health reform law." That number jumped to 86 percent when "Obamacare" was used.

This is the first time Kaiser has asked such a question, but it likely results at least in part from Democrats' aggressive efforts to reclaim the term, which started happening about this time last year, when we were awaiting the Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of the law. In July, the president reclaimed it himself.

"You know what?" Obama said in a speech in San Antonio. "They're right, I do care. I care about folks who get sick and go bankrupt. I care about parents who don't know whether or not they're going to be able to get treatment for their kids. It was the right thing to do."

So, as the law's supporters shift gears to begin enrolling millions of uninsured in health coverage this fall, will we see "Obamacare" slapped on bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets, and blaring from television sets? Probably not, says Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

"It may be there's a message here that calling it 'Obamacare' will be helpful for Democrats in rallying the base," he said. "But in terms of enrolling people, the enrollment effort needs to be on the basis of benefits that will help people and their families, a pocketbook appeal."

And that concludes our latest installment of Health Retooling Watch.

KLIFF NOTES: Top health policy reads from around the Web.

The enrollment push begins. "The race is on to sign up uninsured Americans for health-care coverage this fall, with a number of large national advocacy groups launching aggressive, multimillion-dollar campaigns this summer aimed at promoting President Obama's health-care law." Sandhya Somashekhar in The Washington Post

Obamacare premiums lower than expected, according to an analysis. "A new analysis from Avalere Health says the lower-than-expected prices show that the central piece of the healthcare law — new insurance exchanges in each state — is working as intended." Sam Baker in The Hill

Could LeBron James be an Obamacare messenger? "The Obama administration has reached out to the NBA about a potential marketing partnership to promote the health law." Kyle Cheney in Politico

Sandhya Somashekhar is the social change reporter for the Washington Post.
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