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RomneyCare & ObamaCare: Can you tell the difference?

Mitt Romney has gone to great lengths to distance his Massachusetts health plan from the federal law being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court this week, even giving a PowerPoint presentation to emphasize the differences. But the truth is that there are an awful lot of similarities between the plan he signed in Massachusetts in 2006, often called "RomneyCare," and the one that President Barack Obama signed in 2010, dubbed "ObamaCare."

Both leave in place the major insurance systems: employer-provided insurance, Medicare for seniors and Medicaid for the poor. They seek to reduce the number of uninsured by expanding Medicaid and by offering tax breaks to help moderate income people buy insurance. People are required to buy insurance or pay a penalty, a mechanism called the "individual mandate." And companies that don't offer insurance have to pay fines, with exceptions for small businesses and a few other cases.

Take the PolitiFact quiz

Are you smart enough to tell the difference between ObamaCare and RomneyCare? Here are 10 descriptions of the plans we got from the legislation that created the two plans, official summaries, private reports and interviews with experts. See if you know whether each description is for ObamaCare or RomneyCare.

1 "Individuals who are deemed able to afford health insurance but fail to comply are subject to penalties for each month of non-compliance in the tax year ... . The penalties, which will be imposed through the individual's personal income tax return, shall not exceed 50 percent of the minimum monthly insurance premium."

2 Employers "who employ 11 or more full- time equivalent employees" and do not make a "fair and reasonable contribution" to their employees' health insurance are required to pay a fine.

3 "Tax credits to make it easier for the middle class to afford insurance will become available for people with income between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line who are not eligible for other affordable coverage."

4 Children and adolescents up to age 18 "whose financial eligibility as determined by the division exceeds 133 percent but is not more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level" will be eligible for Medicaid.

5 "Americans who earn less than 133 percent of the poverty level (approximately $14,000 for an individual and $29,000 for a family of four) will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid."

6 A recent poll asked people whether they had a generally favorable or unfavorable view of the health plan. Responses split 41 percent and 41 percent between favoring and not favoring. Another 18 percent said they were undecided.

7 Small businesses qualify for tax credits if they pay for at least half of the workers' health insurance. A small business is defined as having fewer than 25 full-time workers paid average annual wages below $50,000.

8 Experience shows the plan is not significantly going to lower costs. Supporters of the law are actively considering new legislation aimed at cost containment.

9 The plan creates a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute "to conduct research to provide information about the best available evidence to help patients and their health care providers make more informed decisions."

10 For individuals who make more than $200,000 or couples that make more than $250,000, the plan increases Medicare taxes on wages in 2013 by 0.9 percent and imposes a 3.8 percent tax on investment income.

So how many did you get right?

All 10: You're CBO Gold! You qualify to be an analyst at the

Congressional Budget Office!

8-9: Lobbyist Silver! You're good enough to be a health care

lobbyist! Watch out, Billy Tauzin!

6-7: Bronze Policy Wonk Circle! You can be a researcher at the

Kaiser Family Foundation — or Ezra Klein!

5-6: Talking Head Honorable Mention. You're good enough for

shouting matches on cable news channels!

3-4: Pollster's "don't knows." It's hard to have an opinion when

you don't know what's in the plan!

0-2: Chain Email Level. You forward chain emails that say the federal health care law puts a tax on real estate. (Pants on Fire, by the way.)


1. RomneyCare. Note: Both plans have individual mandates. The federal penalties start small, but eventually ramp up to $695 per year or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is higher. Eventually, federal penalties will tend to be higher than the Massachusetts plan.

2. RomneyCare. Note: Federal law exempts employers with fewer than 50 workers. Additionally, under the federal plan, employers pay fines only if their workers qualify for tax credits to buy insurance.

3. ObamaCare. Note: The Massachusetts law also provides subsidized health insurance, but the income cutoff is 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

4. RomneyCare. Note: The Massachusetts law expanded Medicaid for children. The federal law expands Medicaid to adults but sets the cutoff at 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

5. ObamaCare. Note: The Massachusetts law expanded Medicaid for children. The federal law expands Medicaid to adults, but sets the cut-off at 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

6. ObamaCare. Note: Polls show the federal law has split public opinion. Polls in Massachusetts show the program is significantly more popular.

7. ObamaCare. Note: Tax credits start at 35 percent of the employer's health premium costs and increase to 50 percent in 2014.

8. RomneyCare.

9. ObamaCare.

10. ObamaCare.

RomneyCare & ObamaCare: Can you tell the difference? 03/24/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 24, 2012 4:31am]
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