According to a recent Kaiser poll on economic problems facing Americans, 7% of respondents report that they or someone in their household tied the knot last year so they could get their spouse’s health benefits.* Apparently couples teetering on the edge – are we really ready for marriage? – have one more financial factor nudging them towards the big commitment.
Can’t you imagine the romantic how-I-met-your-mother stories? “She had me at ‘full medical and dental.’” Could a health insurance version of the movie “Green Card” be far behind? Raffish copywriter ( James MacAvoy ) marries responsible advertising exec ( Natalie Portman ) for her benefits – and then they fall in love! But their safe haven of subsidized healthcare is threatened when an HR exec ( Allison Janey ) starts asking too many questions.
All joking aside, I wonder what this means for contemporary marriage. Pooling resources through marriage sounds sensible. We already have to worry about the rising costs of food, fuel, and housing. High medical costs are bankrupting people all over the country. That financial ball-and-chain sounds a lot scarier to many than the emotional ball-and-chain of marriage.
After all, I think we can safely assume that the majority of these couples love each other.
But with divorce rates being what they are, is the high cost of healthcare and the dearth of affordable insurance options placing too much pressure on relationships? The same financial pressures bringing these people together are exactly what can tear them apart. We all know what couples argue about most – money! And just because a married couple shares health insurance benefits doesn’t mean they’re completely sheltered from high medical costs – or, for that matter, other high expenses.
Then you add kids to the plot – hey, once you’re married you might as well – and the financial pressures continue to mount.
According to an election-related Kaiser poll, independent candidates would prefer the next president to deal with high medical costs before expanding health coverage. It sounds like marrying for health coverage is just a band-aid for a much larger problem, one we all feel increasingly powerless to solve. But marriage? Two people negotiating a relationship and household in this complex world… that’s a challenge the average person can handle. Me, I’m just glad I have my own health coverage.