For more than a century, presidents of the United States, both Republican and Democratic, have proposed healthcare plans of varying scope. Some of these plans, like Medicare for the elderly and disabled and Medicaid for low-income families and individuals, eventually became law, though not without opposition. But efforts to make affordable health insurance available to a broader range of people have historically been blocked, either by circumstances (such as war or economic depression) or by the fear that government-sponsored insurance programs encroached on personal freedom, posing a threat to American democracy.
In 2010, however, President Barack Obama, having made health reform a principal objective of his presidency, was able to sign into law a comprehensive health-reform measure passed by both houses of Congress. While this law—officially called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or more formally the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—was welcomed by some Americans, others remained vehemently opposed to it. In what seemed to be an attempt to trivialize the law, those who opposed it began to call it Obamacare, thereby implying that the president was personally responsible for any of its flaws. Those who oppose the law still use the term disparagingly. But President Obama has indicated that he is proud to have his name associated with what he regards as a vast improvement in public access to affordable healthcare, and the word Obamacare is increasingly used—by columnists and commentators, on the Internet, and in casual conversation—as a short, easy-to-remember name for the law. At this writing, implementation of Obamacare, the law, is too new for anyone to know how well it will fare. But Obamacare, the name, is likely to last for as long as the law remains a subject of public discourse.