For conservatives, it’s Ryancare. For Senate Democrats, it’s Trumpcare. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, had been trying — without much luck — to get folks to call it the “pay more for less” bill.
As Republicans prepare to put their new health care bill up for a floor vote in the House this week, the battle over the name is just as intense as the fight over the actual substance.
To most Republicans, it’s neither Ryancare nor Trumpcare, but rather the “Obamacare replacement,” or the American Health Care Act, which is the official title of the bill winding its way through Capitol Hill, powered by the unlikely duo of President Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
Ron Faucheux, political analyst and president of Clarus Research Group, said the “-care” suffix has become the “-gate” of health care reform. From the original 1990s Hillarycare to Obamacare to now, sticking someone’s name on a health bill has been an attempt to affix political blame.
“Perhaps Democrats will try TrumpedUpCare?” Mr. Faucheux said. “In the end, the messaging will depend upon the bill itself, what’s in it and how it gets passed. Trumpcare may be the final result, something the media will use as a label. If the media won’t use it, it will fade away.”
One of the bill’s authors, Rep. Kevin Brady, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, rejects all the name-posturing. “The title is the American Health Care Act. That’s it, period,” he says.
But that name is part of the reason the GOP is having such a tough time with the bill, said strategist and pollster Michael McKenna.
“If these guys were in the middle of a branding class in business school, they’d all be getting F’s,” he said. “You have six years to complete your assignment, and that’s what you come up with? Terrible. It doesn’t have anything people actually care about, like choice.”
Mr. McKenna, who once polled on the best network names for coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said the acronym, AHCA, is too close to the acronym ACA, the Affordable Care Act, which is the official name of Obamacare.
“This is exactly the reason we lost this issue in the first place — because the people who worked on health care for Republicans are much more concerned about their next job than on winning the issue,” he said.
“This is a legitimate ‘drain the swamp’ moment. If the president was serious about this stuff, he would be completely with [Sens.] Rand Paul and Tom Cotton,” who have blasted the bill as a poor start, Mr. McKenna said.
Conservative groups backing Mr. Paul and Mr. Cotton are trying hard to sell the bill as Ryancare, figuring that the House speaker is a more poisonous figure among conservative activists, and saying the blame for the bill lies with Mr. Ryan.
“Seemed pretty natural,” said Doug Sachtleben, spokesman for the Club for Growth. “We think it’s not addressing issues that the president campaigned on — lowering overall costs for consumers and including interstate competition — so we see it as Ryan taking the lead.”
Richard Spencer, the controversial alt-right white nationalist who’s been boosting Mr. Trump since the campaign, also makes it a point of calling the bill Ryancare.
“People who don’t like this bill probably want to call it Obamacare lite, or Obamacare 2.0 or Ryancare. I think putting the blame on Ryan is accurate. I don’t think Trump was the person who came up with these ideas,” Mr. Spencer said.He said if Mr. Trump had his way, he probably would have sided with Democrats‘ latest demand of offering a government-run public option plan to compete with private plans on Obamacare’s exchanges.
“I’ve got to tell you, it’s something I haven’t seen in a long time. This president is getting deeply involved. He is helping bridge gaps in our conference. He is a constructive force to help us get to a resolution so that we get consensus on how to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Mr. Ryan said.
For Democrats, meanwhile, there’s unified opposition to the bill — though a strange dissonance over the name.
While Mr. Schumer regularly takes to the chamber floor to rail against the bill with a giant poster that simply reads “Trumpcare,” Mrs. Pelosi had been trying to get her Democrats to sell the unwieldy name of “pay more for less bill.”
More than any other figure in Washington, she also bristles at the name Obamacare, repeatedly correcting reporters with the official name, Affordable Care Act. But in recent days even Mrs. Pelosi has shifted.
“I think it is Trumpcare,” she told “Face the Nation” on CBS this weekend.
“He doesn’t know what he is talking about. And when he says death spiral and this and that, he really doesn’t know what he is talking about. It is most unfortunate. And so this product is Trumpcare,” she said.
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