The term "Obamacare" was originally conceived by opponents of President Barack Obama's health-care reforms as a way of hanging what they saw as a political albatross around his neck. But now, a group of Colorado activists have embraced the word with ThanksObamacare.org, a website that celebrates the legislation by way of features like a just-launched campaign seeking to expose the top ten myths surrounding it.
ThanksObamacare.org is a joint project of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI) and ProgressNow Colorado Education, the 501(c)3 arm of ProgressNow Colorado; it debuted October 24, with the myths component launching this week. Serena Woods, CCHI's director of strategic engagement, stresses that the site is nonpartisan. It's about the law, she maintains, not about boosting its namesake's chances for reelection in 2012.
The idea behind the campaign, Woods says, is "to highlight the things that Obamacare does, not just for portions of the population, but really for everybody by the time it's fully implemented."
From the beginning, putting "Obamacare" front and center was key. "'Obamacare' turned into a dirty word, but it's not. It's the thing that's keeping people from getting kicked off their health insurance for being sick, and keeping women from being discriminated against in their coverage. It's something positive, so we wanted to turn the word into something positive, too."
In her view, the process started naturally. At this point, "a lot of people know the word 'Obamacare,' but they don't necessarily see it as having negative connotations. They just know it has something to do with health-care reform, and they use it that way. When I first met with my primary-care physician, she called it 'Obamacare' in talking to me, and not in a negative way. It's become a word people use in the real world, so we're using it to make sure people know all the great things it does."
The site's list of ten reasons to thank Obamacare include "People under 26 can stay on parents' health insurance," "Insurers must justify rate hikes," "No denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions" and "No copays for birth control, breast pumps & domestic violence screening."
Woods feels such attributes are frequently drowned out by misinformation. Hence, the roster of ten Obamacare myths, such as "Obamacare is a government takeover of health care," "Obamacare does nothing until 2014," "Obamacare is a job-killing law" and "Obamacare establishes death panels" -- a claim whose continued survival strikes her as particularly absurd.
"That seems to come up again and again and again," she says. "There was a proposal that was brought up in the debate over the bill, but it was never put into law -- and yet we still hear that. I think it can be attributed to the classic telephone game of communication," in which misinformation gets perpetuated.
How does Woods measure the success of the campaign? In part by the number of people engaging the site via social media tools like the site's Twitter account: 30,000 so far, by her count. "We've heard from people all over the country, echoing our message and telling their personal stories," she says. "It's really cool."
Her goal is for the site to grow and evolve over time. Meanwhile, she says, "I hope it makes people who go there feel happy. Because that's the whole idea."
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