As a senior studying health communication at the University of Utah, I've had numerous discussions about American health care priorities with colleagues, friends and family. In many of these interactions, I've noticed that how we talk about health care is just as important as the policies themselves.
I've been in many conversations where those I speak with will ask me, "What is the ACA?"
I typically respond with, "The ACA is the Affordable Care Act; it was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama on March 23, 2010."
At this point, I generally get a blank stare to which I say, "Have you heard of Obamacare?"
Immediately, this term registers. And, though previous to using the term Obamacare, we had discussed possible solutions for families who cannot afford health insurance, the anxiety we have when someone is denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition and other issues that face the United States, the mention of Obamacare suddenly puts us at cross-purposes.
Friends and colleagues immediately air their grievances about Obamacare, disregarding that the Affordable Care Act remedies much of what we had just discussed about health care in general. After listening to their concerns I, again, point out that Obamacare is the Affordable Care Act.
Unfortunately, although many people support the substance of the new healthcare law, such as the creation of insurance exchanges and eliminating the denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions, many reject the law because of the politics of those who ensured its passage.
Research has shown that those who oppose Obamacare in reality favor the laws contained in the ACA. In fact, a recent study by Reuters/Ipsos clearly shows that voters will vote as a result of their political affiliation rather than their opinion of the policy.
Eighty percent of Republicans favor "creating an insurance pool where small businesses and those who are uninsured have access to insurance exchanges to take advantage of large group pricing benefits."
Fifty-seven percent of Republicans support "providing subsidies on a sliding scale to aid individuals and families who cannot afford health insurance."
Seventy-eight percent of Republicans support "banning insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions"
Eighty-six percent of Republicans favor "banning insurance companies from cancelling policies because a person becomes ill."
All of these policies are in the ACA. But when it is called Obamacare, 75 percent of Republicans oppose it. What's true for the nation is true for Utah, perhaps even more so considering the majority of Utahns are Republicans.
I'll never claim that everyone should agree with the Affordable Care Act. As citizens of the United States, when we disagree with a proposed law, we are entitled to voice our opinion. What I find disturbing, however, is that when our ideals are so strongly attached to a political party, we immediately disagree with anything proposed by those of a different political affiliation, without regard for the actual substance of the proposal.
The ACA is undoubtedly a progressive measure that remains a highly contested issue as many of its substantive policies are decided this year, like the insurance exchange and Medicaid expansion. But Utahns aren't opposed to progress, and they aren't necessarily opposed to Obamacare either. In fact, a law by any other name would likely have the support of the majority of Utahns.
Until we figure out how to bridge this gap that has been created between the realities of our day-to-day lives and the rhetoric associated with proposals that stand to improve those lives, we all lose — regardless of political affiliation.
Boo Reiser is a senior studying health communication at the University of Utah.