There has been a great deal of introspection among leading Democrats after the bruising defeat in the last election — much of its directed at the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare.” It has ranged from Schumer’s view that the law was political blunder to Harkin’s view that it was a poorly drafted mistake. This week, the highest ranked Democrat, Senate majority leader Harry Reid, said that the Obama Administration may have doomed Democrats in Congress with its poor management and blunders in the rollout of the program. Now the person ultimately responsible for that mismanagement and failure, former Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has her own prognosis: bad brand name.
At the time of the failed rollout, I believed that the most obvious response was at a minimum to fire Sebelius, the subject of a past column. However, the Administration and Democrats circled the wagons and Sebelius kept her job.
Now Sebelius explained on Wednesday that “Obamacare, no question, has a very bad brand that has been driven intentionally by a lot of misinformation and a lot of paid advertising.” I would not say that, after hundreds of millions of wasted dollars and hundreds of “fixes” to a poorly drafted law, the problem is the name. However, it reminded me of a story that I heard while attending the University of Chicago. This may be apocryphal but it is too good a story to check as they say. The story goes that Coca Cola was struggling with loss of market share against 7UP due to the appeal of the “uncola” in the anti-establishment environment of the 60s. So the giant corporation hired a counterculture icon from the University of Chicago (Severn Dardan is often named). The story goes that the cultural guru disappeared with a huge upfront fee to “study” the issue until the company demanded that he appear at a board meeting to give his recommendations for the future Coca Cola. The man walked into the board room in overalls and simply said “change the name” and walked out.
Now, while the hippy story may not pan out, I have an easy substitute from Sebelius. Just change the name. Problem solved.