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The History and Use of the Term "ObamaCare"

Who Uses the Term and Why? It Doesn't Just Describe a Law


Updated July 12, 2012

In the early 1990s, Hillary Clinton was tapped by her husband, Bill, then President of the United States, to create a plan to reform the healthcare payment system in the United States. Her proposal, dubbed both HillaryCare and ClintonCare, was not passed by the US Congress and never became law.

Fast forward to 2008, when Hillary Clinton was a possible presidential candidate, campaigning against Barack Obama for the Democratic party nomination. Both candidates hoped to reform healthcare. So to balance the title "HillaryCare", Clinton's campaign managers began calling Obama's plan, which differed from Clinton's, "ObamaCare."

At the time it was just a name to easily identify one candidate's version of how he or she pictured American healthcare and its costs moving forward. Obama won the election, of course, and early in 2009, reached out to the US Congress citing a list of the problems with the current system, and challenging them to find solutions.

During the next 14+ months, the disagreements, fights, antagonism, belligerent name-calling, contention and verbal combat that took place over whether or not there would be healthcare reform in the United States was argued loudly and clearly. It fell into two main camps: The conservatives (Republicans) who fought against the proposed reform law, and the more liberal and social-minded Democrats, the majority of whom supported the reform law.

Those who were against the law began to call it "ObamaCare," in a very negative, sneering way. Whether found in a news article, or an opinion piece (like a blog), in a newscast, or simply a conversation, it was usually easy to tell which side someone was on based on whether they called the topic "healthcare reform" or "ObamaCare." Those who were more professional and neutral would refer to the subject as healthcare reform. Those who could not remain professional and were against the bill for any reason, referred to it as ObamaCare.

Despite the arguments and antagonism, the healthcare reform law was passed in mid-March 2010. Days later, on March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the new law, called the The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, (the ACA) parts of which were implemented soon afterward, other parts which were to have been implemented by 2014.

But that was not the end of the derision and antagonism. The very conservative anti-health care reform group, led by elected representatives from a newly developed political party called the Tea Party, continued to fight the ACA - ObamaCare - and filed suit in many states until ultimately the ACA was reviewed for its constitutionality by the Supreme Court. In June 2012, the ACA was ruled to be constitutional and healthcare reform continued to be implemented across the United States.

Today the term "ObamaCare" is being used more broadly. Ironically, the sneering that used to accompany the term is being replaced by the reality that President Barack Obama was able to accomplish something that many of his predecessors had not - reform the payment system for healthcare in America. In the future, many pundits (including the author of this article) believe that the term "ObamaCare" will simply be used to describe the law, just as we use the term "Medicare" or "Social Security."

• Learn more about the issues that were dealt with in creating the Affordable Care Act (healthcare reform.)

• Find a list of highlights from the Affordable Care Act that was passed in 2010 and found to be constitutional in 2012.

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