Forget dreading the holidays, I’ve been dreading November 1st.
As my business has grown, my income has grown along with it, and I’ve been bracing myself for the inevitable – a big increase in my healthcare costs.
Three years ago, I still qualified for Medicaid!
And while I didn’t exactly love waiting three hours to see the only gynecologist in my neighborhood who accepted the coverage, at least it was free!
But as my business grew and I began making more money, I started having to pony up. $265 per month for a silver plan on the exchange.
It wasn’t terrible – except when I got charged $800 for a blood test. But even so, I could manage that.
But now? Just wait for it…
I input my information to check what health insurance plans I qualify for.
My results? $420 per month for a bronze plan with a $7,150 deductible. That’s over $5,000 in premiums alone! For crappy coverage!
Then I had an idea. What if I could qualify as a domestic partner on my boyfriend’s plan? It would cut my costs nearly in half and give me access to much better benefits.
No luck: they only accept legally married spouses.
So…I made a big decision….
No, totally kidding (don’t worry mom!).
But during that brief moment of consideration, I posted on Facebook…
“I know people get married for citizenship – how about health coverage?”
Turns out, I wasn’t the only one thinking about it.
Michelle Argento, EveryLittleCent.com
“My fiancé (now husband) and I had been dating for about 3 years when we got engaged. With wedding costs being what they are, we decided for a nearly two-year engagement to save up, but we weren’t anticipating so many life changes to happen during that time.
About a year and a half in, my husband was offered a great new job with a much higher salary. We were so excited… until we saw the healthcare package was missing. When we checked the markets, it would have cost roughly 1/3rd of his monthly take home pay for coverage.
We were lucky that I had amazing health insurance through my employer. For a family, I only had to pay $50/month for the best plan! With our wedding about 5 months away, it was clear to us that the best thing we could do is get married at the courthouse early.
We weren’t sure how our parents or close friends would react to us technically eloping. But because it was a financial decision rather than an emotional one, we went ahead and snuck off to the courthouse one Saturday morning, stood in line, and got married. We expedited our marriage certificate and my husband was officially on my health insurance two weeks later without any gaps.
My advice to those who are considering this strategy is to crunch your numbers, check every option, call around for quotes, and then decide.
Unless you’re serious about getting married or are already on that path, a divorce would be more costly than paying the uninsured fee for most routine health care bills.”
Leah Ingram, Leah Ingram.com
“At the time my husband, well fiancé, was a New York City school teacher and they didn’t extend benefits to non-married couples. We were planning to wed until June 1993 but then, in September 1992, I hurt myself and needed physical therapy.
I was just starting my freelance career and couldn’t afford to self insure. So we ended up getting married in November (after I was all better, because you know pre-existing conditions and all) so that, god forbid, I needed medical care again, I would be covered.”
Are you considering getting married for health coverage?
If you’re currently considering making the matrimonial leap in order to have adequate health coverage, here are some things to consider:
- Don’t marry someone you’d never otherwise marry, just for healthcare. Your monthly premium may sound expensive but it’s nothing compared to the financial agony that comes from being married to someone you don’t want to be married to, (not to mention the potential cost of divorce).
- Don’t do it with / for a friend. That may sound harsh but marriage ties you to someone in a way that you may not want to be tied to a friend. In order to share their healthcare perks, you’re taking on their debt obligations, financial choices and in some cases, you might be paying higher taxes.
- Do your research. Make sure the employer offers health insurance only to married couples, otherwise you might consider going the domestic partnership route. Insuring a spouse may also have some tax ramifications on the primary insured party.
Why I’m not getting married for health coverage.
For a self-employed lady like me, marriage offers some pretty compelling perks. Lower taxes. Cheaper car insurance. Health benefits.
But getting married has a lot of financial ramifications. And so does getting divorced.
I’d rather make a decision about marriage based on the two people in the relationship, not the combined total of their hospital bills.
The replies to my Facebook comment showed that while a lot of engaged couples got married sooner because of healthcare benefits, very few people actually got married only for healthcare benefits.
Though a 2008 poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 7 percent of adults said someone in their household had married in the previous year to gain access to insurance.
And one wedding chapel officiant told The New York Times that one in 10 couples cited health insurance as their main reason for getting married.
Maybe I’d feel differently if I was faced with a chronic health problem or a more expensive healthcare plan. But for now, I’m staying unmarried (and paying for it).
Health Coverage Update
Between rising premiums for the Affordable Care Act and the now uncertain future of the healthcare law, I realize that many more people are facing insurance insecurity. I wanted to share the solution I’ve opted into for 2017 – healthcare sharing ministries.
After a lot of research and considering literally every option (see above), I joined Liberty HealthShare for health coverage starting January 2017.
While healthcare sharing ministries don’t offer traditional insurance coverage, they operate in much the same way.
HealthShare members pay for medical expenses by sharing costs, with every member paying a monthly “sharing” contribution instead of an insurance premium, then covering an “annual unshared amount” (like a deductible) before the expense sharing kicks in.
Unlike the bronze plan with the $425 monthly premium and $7,000 plus deductible I was considering before, my monthly sharing contribution for Liberty HealthShare is only $199/month (for the best health coverage option), and my annual unshared amount is just $500. Not to mention, I can see any doctor AND I’m exempt from paying the penalty for being “uninsured”.
Yeah, it’s a pretty sweet deal. Here are the caveats…
- Health sharing ministries are typically faith based. I chose Liberty HealthShare because though they are a Christian organization, they accept individuals of all belief systems.
- Unlike the Affordable Care Act plans, health sharing ministries don’t have to accept everyone, so if you have a pre-existing condition, or engage in unhealthy habits (like smoking), you may be denied coverage.
- Finally, you may need to do a little more work on your part to make sure your medical bills are properly submitted. Sometimes your provider will submit your bills directly to the HealthShare, but other times, you may need to submit the paperwork yourself.
All that being said, I’m grateful to have found an affordable health coverage option that doesn’t require putting a ring on it before I’m ready!
*If you want more info on Liberty HealthShare, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you more details.