The 800 phone number used for enrollment in the new Affordable Care Act healthcare plans has enraged anti-“Obamacare” activists who perceive it as a subtle — and vulgar — jab at the law’s opponents (or perhaps just the American people at large).
While the controversy didn’t erupt until this week, it’s been brewing since 1999, long before the Affordable Care Act came into being. That’s when the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services registered a new phone number for people who had questions about their Medicare plans.
Nothing seemed strange about the number they secured — 800-318-2596. Now, 14 years later, that same phone number has been put into service as the primary line for questions about the new healthcare.gov website.
Suddenly, the number went from relative obscurity to one of the most dialed numbers in the country…
The controversy over the phone number comes not in the numbers themselves, but in the words they spell…
This brings us to the controversy in question.
Conservative website The Daily Caller recently pointed out that the phone number bears an offensive moniker when spelled out.
Because the 1 doesn’t have a letter on the keypad, it gets ignored and the phone number effectively spells out…well, you get the picture.
Of course, the fact that it’s highly improbable that anyone intentionally registered the phone number 14 years ago with that hidden message doesn’t matter. Nor does the fact that the number 1 throws off the spelling.
All that matters is perception, and the perception of many angry people was obvious…
— Veronica (@vevecurl) October 4, 2013
— Bill D (@zeusFanHouse) October 4, 2013
Fortunately, there were others who simply found humor in the absurdity…
— Alyssa Farah (@Alyssafarah) October 4, 2013
Now that’s something we can all agree on.