You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.

Does a Big Bill's Name Even Matter?

Jonathan Cohn has a nice short item today about the name of the health care reform signed into law last March: is “Obamacare” a good word for it? Jonathan Chait chimes in and points out that since Barack Obama is actually fairly popular that it’s not exactly the slur some conservatives believe it is. I use “ACA” because I think it’s the most neutral version, although I suppose “PPACA” is technically more accurate (Chait advocates it for that reason), but I find it uglier. Kevin Drum complains about Democratic ineptness:

The real problem here is that Democrats, once again, failed Legislation 101. This was their bill. They could name it anything they wanted. So what did they choose? PPACA. That’s very memorable, isn’t it? What’s wrong with these guys?

I suppose, although “Affordable Care Act” isn’t bad, is it?

Personally, I think it’s very unlikely that the names of these things matter at all to their long-term popularity, not even a tiny bit: Pell Grants and IRAs and Medicare and the Interstate Highway System wind up succeeding if people wind up using them and liking them. So, if that’s the case, you might as well go for the extraordinarily small portion of the electorate that has an aversion to blatant, obvious, ugly propaganda. My guess is that they’re more likely to be Dems anyway, and those who love good branding and slick advertising for their own sake are more likely to be Republican-leaning.

More to the point, the bill itself is going to be forgotten; assuming it takes effect as planned, what’s really going to matter are names of the various elements of it that individuals interact with. That is—remember, ACA (or Obamacare or PPACA or Affordable Care Act of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Ac) isn’t actually a single program; it’s an omnibus bill containing various different elements that really are not directly related. For example, the CLASS act already has a name, but it’s part of ACA.

Does the law actually give a name to the exchanges? That’s where (I think) the real naming action will be. Perhaps the states can just sell naming rights to the exchanges. I suppose you couldn’t let insurance plans buy it, but what about medical devices, or local hospitals?