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What is Obamacare?



ObamaCare, formally known as “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), is a United States federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Together with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, it represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the country’s healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

ObamaCare aims to increase the quality and affordability of health insurance, lower the uninsured rate by expanding public and private insurance coverage, and reduce the costs of healthcare for individuals and the government. ObamaCare provides a number of mechanisms—including mandates, subsidies, and insurance exchanges—intended to increase coverage and overall affordability. The law also requires insurance companies to cover all applicants within new minimum standards and offer the same rates regardless of pre-existing conditions or sex. Additional reforms aim to reduce costs and improve healthcare outcomes by shifting the system towards quality over quantity through increased competition, regulation, and incentives to streamline the delivery of healthcare. The Congressional Budget Office projected that the ObamaCare will lower both future deficits and Medicare spending.

The term “Obamacare” was originally coined by opponents, notably Mitt Romney in 2007, as a pejorative term. According to The New York Times, the term was first put in print in March 2007, when healthcare lobbyist Jeanne Schulte Scott penned it in a health industry journal. “We will soon see a ‘Giuliani-care’ and ‘Obama-care’ to go along with ‘McCain-care,’ ‘Edwards-care,’ and a totally revamped and remodeled ‘Hillary-care’ from the 1990s”, Schulte Scott wrote.

The expression Obamacare first was used in early 2007 generally by writers describing the candidate’s proposal for expanding coverage for the uninsured according to research by Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic magazine. The word was first uttered in a political campaign by Mitt Romney in May 2007 in Des Moines, Iowa. Romney said: “In my state, I worked on healthcare for some time. We had half a million people without insurance, and I said, ‘How can we get those people insured without raising taxes and without having government take over healthcare’. And let me tell you, if we don’t do it, the Democrats will. If the Democrats do it, it will be socialized medicine; it’ll be government-managed care. It’ll be what’s known as Hillarycare or Barack Obamacare, or whatever you want to call it.”

By mid-2012, Obamacare had become the most common colloquial term to refer to the law by both supporters and opponents, in contrast to the use of “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” or “Affordable Care Act” in more formal and official use. Use of the term in a positive sense was suggested by Democratic politicians such as John Conyers. President Obama endorsed the nickname, saying, “I have no problem with people saying Obama cares. I do care.” Because of the number of “Obamacare” search engine queries, the Department of Health and Human Services purchased Google advertisements, triggered by the term, to direct people to the official HHS site. In March 2012, the Obama reelection campaign embraced the term “Obamacare”, urging Obama’s supporters to post Twitter messages that begin, “I like #Obamacare because…..”. After its debut as a phrase on Capitol Hill, according to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, from July 2009 to June 2012 the term “Obamacare” was used nearly 3,000 times in congressional speeches.


  • Introduced in the House as the “Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009” by Charles Rangel on September 17, 2009
  • Committee consideration by: Ways and Means
  • Passed the House on October 8, 2009
  • Passed the Senate as the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” on December 24, 2009 with amendment
  • House agreed to Senate amendment on March 21, 2010
  • Signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010

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