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Is Obamacare the Newest Threat to Your Marriage?


Obamacare might be the newest force working against marriage. In The Atlantic, Garance Franke-Ruta reports on the subtle anti-marriage incentives in the Affordable Care Act. Franke-Ruta first caught on to the subject when an acquaintance mentioned she was getting divorced in order to maximize the subsidies she could get under the Affordable Care Act. Franke-Ruta then researched the actual subsidy levels in the law and found some surprising things:

Any married couple that earns more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level—that is $62,040—for a family of two earns too much for subsidies under Obamacare. “If you’re over 400 percent of poverty, you’re never eligible for premium” support, explains Gary Claxton, director of the Health Care Marketplace Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But if that same couple lived together unmarried, they could earn up to $45,960 each—$91,920 total—and still be eligible for subsidies through the exchanges in New York state…

Of course, Franke-Ruta’s friend aside, the ACA isn’t going to touch off a spree of divorces. Nor is it likely that this incentive was some conscious expression of an anti-marriage bias. But it is a perfect example of how our public policy, often unintentionally, has consistently failed to make it financially easier for couples to get and stay married and have children.

Given that consensus is forming on both the right and the left that the marriage gap— in which the wealthy elite have stable marriages while the working class don’t—is a major cause of growing income inequality, now seems like exactly the wrong time to incentive the single life. And given how important marriage is to lasting health, these kinds of incentives could be the a paradigm case of a self-defeating policy.

[Money or Marriage Picture from Shutterstock]

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  • lehnne

    People in stable marriages consume less government services and are more likely to vote their interests rather than the interests of the hand that feeds them

  • Brian Beck

    Eh, it also has an effect in the other direction–the situation in the article is the odd one where neither partner has employer-based health insurance. I have a friend who was already looking towards engagement but now plans to rush the civil wedding to get on her boyfriend’s insurance–he’s an engineer at Caterpillar, she’s a freelancer whose plan was just cancelled due to Obamacare.

    • avery12

      What happens when the employer mandate kicks in?

  • Fat_Man

    Euros in the illustration’s hand?

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