Friday, January 3, 2014

Names Matter: Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act versus ObamaCare

When I was studying for my MBA in marketing, I had a thoughtful professor, John Philip Jones, a career advertising agency veteran, who wrote one of the earliest books on branding: "What's in a Name". The answer, I learned, is a lot!

Case Study: The Patriot Act

"The Patriot Act", sound Constitutional? Protective? Patriotic? Simple and clear? Easy to understand? Or, does it sound of questionable Constitutionality? Takes away some of our right? Deceptive name? Too good to be true? 

"The Patriot Act", that's an easy one, a no-brainer, especially if you just got attacked on American soil ... and a major population center and national landmark city at that ... the first attack on American soil in 60 years ... you haven't really read all of the details in the actual legislation of the Patriot Act BUT it's been quickly and nearly unanimously passed by both houses of Congress, and signed by the President.

Did you know that "The Patriot Act" is a nickname? 

What if President Bush and Congress promoted "The Patriot Act" by its originally introduced to Congress name ... its real name ... as listed on the official government documents with the Library of Congress,  "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001"? 

The law's real name is not too inspiring but it more accurately describes the law's provisions. And that could be controversial. 

Perhaps, if President Bush and Congress stuck with the original name "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act", then then The Patriot Act would have raised the public awareness, concern, and contentious debate among Americans about its Constitutionality.

But no. President Bush and Congress  went with that new promotional name ... wrapped it in the American flag ... The Patriot Act. 

What a perfect name for a law that limits the interpretation of our rights in our Constitution's Bill of Rights! I believe that this is why President Bush and Congressional leaders knew that this law would be controversial, so they wrapped it in the American flag with the name The Patriot Act.

I do not intend here to condemn or assert opinion about The Patriot Act. It's just an example highlighting the importance of law's name. Government leaders select a name for bills that will build awareness and support or suppress opposition and inquiry. 

Here are some other examples: A name like Patriot Act is quite different from a name like Medicare or Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. It's more like Social Security or American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.

Be aware: Every major legislation, especially those that are cornerstones or controversial, are carefully named to establish them as cornerstones and influence the controversy.

Case in Point: The Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act vs Obamacare

... now ... as the American Health Care Marketplace and our feelings about economic security are changing ...

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Please, close your eyes and Picture Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act and tell me ... tell yourself ... what this name is trying to say.

... clear your palette ...  

Please, Picture Obamacare and then tell me out loud what this name is trying to say. 

... clear your palette ...

Match these words and phrases to either the name -- Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act or Obamacare
  • Government run
  • No waiting period for pre-existing conditions
  • Partisan, political
  • No lifetime maximum on coverage
  • Selfish
  • Premiums prices don't go up so much
  • Regulations
  • Legitimately, as in passed by Congress, signed into law by President, affirmed by Supreme Court
  • Not legitimate, Unconstitutional
  • Social safety net, like Medicare and Social Security
  • Temporary, political
  • Permanent, enduring
  • Something I want
  • Something more I have to do, tolerate
  • Fair, consistent with our rights as citizens
  • Unfair, tramples our rights as citizens
  • American democracy in action
  • American government dictatorship, not democracy
  • Good
  • Bad
  • Right
  • Wrong
  • I'm for it
  • I'm against it
By now you must be getting my point. If not then read "Words that Work" by Frank Luntz because political consultants have been driving the talking points ... and names of Congressional and stat legislative bills since at least the early 1990's. 

The decision by Republicans to label the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act as Obamacare as a purposeful, pejorative. Republicans and Democrats even argued about whether the term Obamacare could be used communications sent (free) through Congressional franking privilege. And, the bipartisan Franking Commission ruled that Republicans could NOT use it in franked mail. 

Republicans taunted Democrats, daring them to promote the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act as Obamacare. But most Congressional Democrats saw this for what it is, and opposed its use. Unfortunately, after a while, President Obama adopted the label, perhaps he thought by giving it the context that "Obama cares" he could derail, if not hijack and redirect, the Republican initiative. 

It looks like the Republicans have been successful in getting most media and citizens to adopt the Obamacare label. Democrats fought and won the backstage franking battle but have not fought for the widespread adoption of Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act ... a consequential missed opportunity.

"A rose by another name" ... Kentucky presents an interesting example

Kentucky set up its own exchange for the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act BUT DID NOT NAME IT anything similar to the PPACA or Obamacare. Instead, they named it with a local, statewide program name of Kynect (sounds like connect) ... and it's been very, very popular!!

Uninsured individuals seek coverage through The Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," in Appalachia

News reports that Kentucky residents love Obamacare ... the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act ... by another name. This rose by another name appears to smell even sweeter.

Nearly 20% ... one out of five ... uninsured Kentucky residents have already signed up for it and, among them, 40% of the enrolled residents are in the highly desireable young and healthy demographic group!!

Names matter. Evaluate the Patient Protection & Affordability Act with this in mind.