Obamacare vs. Romneycare

Many pundits have linked Massachusetts’ Health Care Reform to Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but they are not analogous. It is fallacious to term the two distinctive plans as “Obamneycare,” a word Tim Pawlenty coined to marry the two reforms together. The two laws, often described as Obamacare and Romneycare, are actually completely different views of healthcare.

The two plans were enacted with the same motives, but differ in execution. The federal law puts more emphasis on cost-control measures and tax credits for small businesses. Massachusetts enacted a lower coverage requirement for employers and sets retributions for the uninsured at a mere $295 per employee for businesses with 11 or more full-time employees. The national mandate, conversely, fines employers with 50 or more workers $2000 per employee without coverage. The Bay State also offers subsidies for those earning up to 300% of the federal poverty level, unless an employer offers health insurance which eliminates employee’s qualification for subsided plans. In contrast, the national plan offers subsidies up to 400% and workers can receive subsidies if their premium contributions exceed a qualified amount.

In addition to these variations, the two laws differ in a crucial aspect: popular support. The Massachusetts law is free from the latent castigation that has occurred at the federal level. Criticisms and disagreements exist, but for the most part, Bay State citizens realize what healthcare reform was truly meant to be: A stepping stone to progress and the transformation of an antiquated system. Even the fiscally conservative Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation understood the basic purpose of the sweeping reorganization. As the organization’s president Michael J. Widmer asserts, the law is “a well thought-out piece of legislation” that his group supported because, “we believe in public investments.”

There are some similarities between the two plans, but as Tim Murphy, Romney’s Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2005 to 2007, emphasizes, “Unless you were going to go to single-payer, how many mechanisms really are there to use?” Despite Romney’s current campaign stump speech, which casts him on the opposing side of health care reform, the Massachusetts plan enacted under his leadership was the motivation for the national health care revamping. The Obama administration used the Massachusetts plan to frame their law, but a single state’s reform cannot be applied wholeheartedly to an entire nation. The Obama administration seized upon the Massachusetts model and added flourishes, but each plan has its own terms. The Massachusetts reform was simply the impetus driving the nation forward.

Both pieces of legislation have progressed America beyond its resistant and archaic health care model. In the five years since Massachusetts enacted its sweeping overhauls, success is achieved and the plan remains remarkably popular. To throw around some statistics, the percentage of Massachusetts residents without health insurance is down, more businesses are offering insurance to their employees, and, while costs are rising, health care economists have conceded that this trend cannot be justly linked to the reforms. This is not to say that the Massachusetts plan is without fault, but both the state and national plans are works in progress. Not everything is perfect when first implemented, and takes time to work out the problems.

Photo CreditWikimedia Commons

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Elizabeth Elfman

Elizabeth is currently exploring health policy directly related to the expanding field of health technology. Through her work she is able to assess healthcare at both the national and federal level. Her political interests also include women's rights and international diplomacy. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she obtained a degree in political science and communication public service. She has been published in Boston Magazine and the Philadelphia Daily News.

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