Marriage Penalty Hidden in Health Care Reform
by Kim Trobee, editor
Higher premiums may discourage people from getting married.
A closer look at premium payments in both the House and Senate health care bills shows higher premiums that might discourage couples from tying the knot.
For instance, in the House version, an unmarried couple each making $30,000 a year would pay $1,320 combined each year for private health insurance. If that couple chose to marry, their premium would jump to $12,000 a year, a difference of $10,680.
Allen Quist, a former Minnesota State legislator and current candidate for Congress, discovered the penalty while looking at numbers from the Committees on Ways and Means, Energy & Commerce, and Education & Labor. (Someone has actually read it.)
"This extraordinary penalty people will pay, should they marry, extends all the way from a two-person combined income of $58,280 to $86,640, a spread of $28,360," he wrote in a blog post. "A large number of people fall within this spread. As premiums for private insurance escalate, as expected, the marriage penalty will become substantially larger."
The Senate bill includes a similar penalty.
"The Senate bill stipulates that two unmarried people, 52 years of age, with private insurance and a combined income of $60,000, $30,000 each, will pay a combined cost of $2,483 for medical insurance," Quist wrote. "Should they marry, however, they will pay a combined cost of $11,666 for insurance — a penalty of $9,183 for getting married."
The numbers are based on the government's definition of "poverty level." Those above poverty level will pay higher premiums, and the excess would be redistributed to those in lower income levels.
Quist explains that the government's definitions will play a critical role in whether people will choose to get married.
"'Household' is defined in both bills as including those who can be claimed as dependents for federal income tax purposes, thereby clarifying that adults can avoid the marriage penalty by living together unmarried," he wrote. "The new system provides a huge incentive for doing so."
John Helmberger, CEO of the Minnesota Family Council and Institute, said the middle class will once again take the hit financially.
"This hidden marriage penalty," he said, "hits hardest the very people that are most suffering from the pathologies resulting from the decline of marriage in our culture." (After 45 years of marriage, my husband and I may be forced to get a divorce.)