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Marrying for Health Insurance

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Over a million couples will be engaged this holiday season, and for good reason. The holidays bring families together to test the strengths of relationships between loved ones. Couple are introduced to family and friends, and the romance of the Christmas season quickly followed by the celebration of the New Year all add to your future partner dropping down on one knee this time of year. Or, maybe not.

While the season is indeed romantic, these may not be any of the reasons surrounding your most recent engagement.

Many men and women have decided to marry solely for the purpose of healthcare. As featured by CNN.com a short-term couple decided to marry after the woman received a generous medical plan from her recent employer. While many may gasp at the thought that marriages ‘on the fly’ are desecrating the sanction of holy matrimony it may be more of a reason to marry than any. In fact, is it such a bad thing to want to secure the health and well being of your loved one?

A New York Times article puts the growing popularity of these types of unions nicely by saying: “Though money and matrimony have been linked since Genesis, marrying for health coverage is a more modern convention. For today’s couples, “in sickness and in health” may seem less a lover’s troth than an actuarial contract. They marry for better or worse, for richer or poorer, for co-pays and deductibles.”

Many insurance plans will recognize a domestic partnership as grounds for dual coverage but not all states are willing to give out domestic partnership affidavits leaving the couple no choice but to marry. It is a striking realization to know that couples’ around the country feel the need to rush to the altar only secure that they will be protected in a time of ill health.

It may not be the actual marriages that are a cause for concern but the reason itself. Is this really what we, as Americans must resort to in order to live comfortably and free of worry? While people all over the country get engaged this season, the well being of one another is of the utmost importance.

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EmpowHER Guest

Not only are younger people getting married for insurance, older ones have as well. When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer through my state's low-income women's health program, I had the nasty surprise of finding that the treatment of any diagnosis was not covered under the program, just the screening part. So I was told I had cancer, but they couldn't do treatments needed unless I was covered by insurance, or had the money up front! Having divorced in the past year I had lost my insurance coverage through my husband's employer, and was struggling to survive in the first place. When I had explored all options for purchasing health care, most excluded coverage for the treatments because it would have been a pre-existing condition, my ex-husband checked into his insurance coverage and found that I would be immediately covered were we to marry again. Good friend that is he, he offered to marry me again so that I could get treatment. Thankfully, since this happened, the state's low-income women's health program now also covers some treatments, but it is far from complete coverage. It was quite a kick in the stomach to have access to services for the screenings, but not for treatment! Also, sadly, since that time, the insurance plan my husband carries has changed the policy about being covered immediately upon marriage and there are now time restrictions. When can health care be based on HEALTH and CARE instead of on PROFIT of the insurance company!

December 27, 2009 - 11:48am
(reply to Anonymous)


Your story is incredible. It's hard to believe that any health-care system, especially one for low-income people, would allow screenings but no access to treatment. It's almost as though the screenings become worthless in that scenario: Yes, you can find out that there's something wrong with you, but you can't do anything about it.

I also have two friends, one male and one female, both in their 50s, who have considered getting married so that she would have health care coverage after she lost her job.

Did you get treatment through your ex-husband/husband/friend's plan? How are you doing now?

December 28, 2009 - 9:22am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Diane Porter)

Yes I did get treatment, and I'm doing very well these ten years later, thanks. I'm just saddened to see that we continually have to struggle to keep what coverage IS there over and over again, especially with reproductive health care issues.

December 28, 2009 - 9:44am
(reply to Anonymous)

Ten years later! You DID get very successful treatment! Congratulations on being a survivor!

I agree with you on the hoops people have to jump through jst to get coverage today. Let's hope that the health care reform bill we ultimately get out of Congress does something to start breaking down some of the barriers that exist now.

Thanks so much for writing.

December 29, 2009 - 8:45am

It is an interesting question you raise. People have been accepting jobs for benfits for years, now there are less jobs so more dire situations.
On NBC evening news there was a story about a man past his youth who enlisted for the benefits for his wife who is going through ovarian cancer!

December 26, 2009 - 1:53pm
HERWriter Guide

Thanks for this great post, Kellen!

Most people get engaged for solely "romantic" reasons but people do get married for health insurance and it's a shame. Not only should they not have to be in that position, that is not what marriage is about and it should not have to be "used" in that way.

Another issue is that people are DIVORCING for health care! For financial reasons, mostly to do with health, couples are being forced to divorce so that the ill spouse of child can still be cared for under a certain health plan, due to the marriage, or the financial liabilities of one of the spouses causing them to be otherwise unacceptable on a health plan.

It's a real shame how money and health are so intertwined in this country. One facet should not have to depend on the other.

December 26, 2009 - 7:58am
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