Reporters who are fully convinced of ObamaCare's tremendous benefits are apt to play off the new law's unpopularity with voters to a failure of messaging. For all the news accounts that have done so, a piece in Sunday's Washington Post takes the cake.
The article argues that ObamaCare's languishing poll numbers are a result not of any failure of the legislation itself, but of the lack of a catchy acronym in the law's title. Seriously:
Many people who support the law, or are neutral toward it, call it "puh-pack-uh" or "pee-pack-uh." Others call it the Affordable Care Act or plain old health-care reform.
But those less-than-inspiring monikers aren't much help to Democrats trying to convince the public that "Obamacare" - the Republicans' pejorative name for the law - is worth keeping, said Robert J. Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Democratic pollsters concede that there is a problem.
"We do need a common narrative that includes a name," said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners. "When Obama's job performance improves, it will be fine to call it Obamacare. Now, it is polarizing."
Mark Mellman, another Democratic pollster, says that the title Patient Protection and Accountable [sic] Care Act highlights important aspects of the law, but that "it's wonky, clunky language."
Names of legislation, he said, should "summarize something important for people to organize their thinking."
Those last three words are a bit Orwellian - acronymous bill titles aren't meant to crystalize public perception of the legislation. Just the opposite, actually: they're created to make bills sound nice and rosy, regardless of, often despite their contents.
The Post apparently believes that if ObamaCare had a nifty acronym for a name, public perception would shift dramatically. That can only mean that they believe opposition to the law is unmoored from any rational, pragmatic basis. That is essentially what the Post implied: because ObamaCare has been and continues to be a success, any opposition cannot possibly be due to any failure on the law's part.
And how is the Post so sure that ObamaCare has been a success? A Democratic pollster told them so:
These days, White House officials generally refer to the new health-care law as the Affordable Care Act. Blendon says that doesn't help Democrats much because "people don't believe the law will make health care more affordable."
Mellman agrees that there is a widespread view that costs are on the rise because of the law - even though supporters say that view is inaccurate.
"Members of Congress are hearing it right and left," he said. "People's premiums went up last year and [Democrats] said it had nothing to do with the bill. When they went up this year, people said, 'Hah!' and they linked it [to the law], even though there probably was no connection."
Gee, why would Americans be under the impression that ObamaCare will raise health insurance premiums? Perhaps because Democrats repeatedly admitted that fact, and independent analysts have concurred. Both the Congressional Budget Office and Associated Press fact-checkers contended that the law will increase premiums. Even the liberal quasi-watchdog Politifact found that premiums would rise under the plan.
But don't take their word for it. Here's Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin breaking the news:
Obama himself admitted the law would raise premiums. Granted, Americans would be getting higher quality care, but costs would go up, he noted during the 2010 health care "summit."
Premium hikes are just one of the plethora of problems created or exacerbated by the new health care law. And they represent yet another example of Democrats' broken promises on the health care issue. They initially insisted health care spending - both national and individual - would decline. That is not going to happen. They said if you liked your plan, you could keep it, but no such luck under ObamaCare. End-of-life counseling provisions were scrubbed from the legislation after a public outcry, only to arise again in the administration's regulatory schemes. The law will likely exacerbate the Medicare doctor shortfall.
The list goes on - there are a host of serious problems with this law. Yet liberal journalists either fail to understand that fact, or willfully ignore it. And for those who fail to comprehend the tangible and rational objections to the law, it stands to reason that opposition would be rooted in message, not substance.
Unfortunately for this WaPo reporter (and the country), there are plenty of substantive objections to ObamaCare. A new acronym is not going to make for better policy.
*****UPDATE: Related: "Obamacare: Barely implemented, but already over-budget and under-serving."