Former Vice President Joe Biden alleged  on Monday that South Bend (Indiana) Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a top rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, "stole" his healthcare plan.

“He stole it,” Biden told campaign reporters, saying if the roles were reversed, he would have been criticized for doing so. "What would you have done to me? You’d have torn my ears off." 

Buttigieg denied the allegation when CNN asked him about it.

"Well, first of all, I’ve been talking about ‘Medicare for all who want it’ since at least February, and also the plans are not exactly the same," Buttigieg responded. "Of course I believe that our approach on healthcare is the best one, and I’m willing to bring that plan out and compete with any of my competitors on having the best plan."

It is true that both Biden and Buttigieg's proposals offer a "public option" to the menu of healthcare choices currently offered to Americans under the Affordable Care Act. This plan would be run by the federal government and offer attractive rates designed to be competitive with private plans. However, their overall healthcare plans differ in meaningful ways. As one example, Buttigieg has proposed a specific long-term care benefit that would offer $90 of coverage per day to eligible recipients. Biden, on the other hand, has proposed using tax credits to help subsidize the cost of long-term care. 

Both Biden and Buttigieg agree all Americans should not be forced into a single government-run health insurance plan -- which is the approach preferred by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., their rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"I don’t think the American people are wrong when they say that what they want is a choice," Buttigieg said in the October Democratic debate. "The choice of Medicare for all who want it, which is affordable for everyone, because we make sure that the subsidies are in place, allows you to get that healthcare. It’s just better than Medicare-for-all whether you want it or not. And I don’t understand why you believe the only way to deliver affordable coverage to everybody is to obliterate private plans."

Biden has made similar arguments: “Whether you’re covered through your employer or on your own or not, you should have the choice to buy into a public option plan for Medicare — your choice,” Biden said at a campaign event in April. “If the insurance company isn’t doing right by you, you should have another choice.”