Why We Call It "Obamacare"

At Downsize DC we use the shorthand "Obamacare," when referrring to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). We do so in order to be fair and accurate.

We don't call it "health care reform." Why?

  • We must give credit where credit is due.  
  • It bears no relation to actual health care.

Recognition

President Barack Obama is the leader of his party. The Democrats devoted a year's worth of political capital and pushed the resulting bill through on a party line basis. Obama believes that he finally accomplished something the Democrats attempted as far back as Harry Truman, if not earlier. He and his fans consider the PPACA to be his greatest accomplishment.

In a word, Obama is proud of the PPACA, and so we're being charitable in calling the program "Obamacare" -- even if we ultimately hope that "Obamacare" is ultimately discredited and defeated.

To be even more congenial, we should point out that Obama doesn't think the PPACA is perfect. From the President's perspective, true "Obamacare" would've been a fully socialized (compulsory, State-owned and State-run) system, rather than the fascist (State-managed, but privately run) operation PPACA is.

But the Democrats aren't too worried because they know that a fascist (corporatist) approach sows the seeds of its own failure. And when that happens, they'll eagerly remind us, "We told you we need a 'public' system," where "public" is code for "Statist."

Accuracy

But precision is even more important than congeniality. Health care involves two very broad categories of human activity.

  1. Lifestyle activities, including diet, exercise, supplements, and stress-management.
  2. Medical assistance, where we turn to professionals to treat sickness and disease.

Obamacare deals with neither of these things.

Medical assistance can get very expensive, and so we purchase insurance to protect our assets. Insurance is the concern addressed by Obamacare.

Early on, the President and his allies misled the public, repeatedly stating that, "49 million people don't have health care." 

Eventually, after sufficient criticism, he said something slighly more truthful: "30 million people don't have health care."

Yet only the number had been corrected. This framing was pernicious, almost in an Orwellian sense. You were supposed to get the impression that 30 million people were a heartbeat away from dying in the streets.
 
But could they see a doctor? Did they have access to emergency rooms and hospitals? Yes, and yes.

Health insurance has become quite expensive. But could much of the 30 million afford to buy some fruit instead of Fruity Pebbles? ...or a gym membership instead of a cable subscription?

No one was denying the uninsured, health care. Health care was not the object of reform. Insurance was.

Summation

So let's be magnanimous, and give the President credit for his greatest legislative accomplishment. And let's be honest about what was really "reformed" here; insurance.

Let us call it, "Obamacare."


Copyright (c) 2011 by Jim Babka. Permission to distribute this blog post for educational purposes is granted, if done with attribution to the author and the Downsize DC Foundation. Permission to use for commercial purposes is denied.

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