Saturday, January 9, 2010

ObamaCare: 5 Times Cheaper If You Don't Marry

It really amounts to a war on marriage.

Hidden in the 1000+ pages of the latest House health care fiasco and the 2000+ pages of the Senate health care fiasco are huge financial penalties for married folks of limited to average means, amounting to a bill per couple of about $10,000 a year that you must pay only if you marry (or are currently married). If you just live with your sexual partner, no $10,000 bill for you.

Shocking, I know. Unbelievable. Yes. And also true.

Just what society needs, a giant disincentive to marry, courtesy of Obama and his Obamatons. More children born of unwed parents, but parents who would have wed if they could have afforded to. Because cohabitation is a far weaker bond than a marriage contract, less security for those children, who will a higher risk of eventually being raised by one parent.

How this financial penalty will contribute to those children's health--and the nation's health--is beyond me.

Think of it. A young couple, just starting out, contemplates marriage. Each earns about $30,000 per year. The fact that they marry shouldn't raise their health insurance premiums, should it? If anything, marriage ought to reduce their health insurance bill because married folk, on average, are healthier than single folk. Married couples are likely to eat better and party less than their single friends. They are less likely to have driving-while-intoxicated accidents and to contract sexually transmitted diseases.

But the House doesn't see it that way. In Pelosi's health care bill, a young couple who marries will pay an additional $11,000 for health insurance every year. That's $110,000 extra dollars in insurance payments over the course of their first ten years of marriage, the best and healthiest (and for many, the only) years in which to have children. Obviously that loss of $110,000 will be a disincentive for that young couple to have a child or two, but if they do, that child or two will enjoy much less in the way of food, clothing, education, and entertainment. For the entire family, there will be less quality of everything from childcare to clothing.

It is difficult to believe, I know, that this sort of discrimination could go virtually unnoticed. I would not be surprised if most members of Congress don't even realize that they've voted for this kind of lop-sided means of paying for their health-care extravaganza. I have seen different calculations of the amount of the marriage penalty, depending on income, but all the estimates are of substantial sums amounting to thousands of dollars, definitely enough to make it financially impossible for many young people--who often start out on a shoestring--to marry. [Added: this morning, Huckabee on Fox discussed a $2000 marriage penalty for 17 million lower-income couples. That amount applies to couples earning $25,000 each for a combined income of $50,000.]

I'd like to know how a huge tax on marriage will contribute to the health of the children of either married or unmarried parents.

There is no question that many will respond to this penalty by not marrying and that this marriage tax will take its toll on society. When Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" started providing financial benefits to unemployed unwed mothers, men and women did not stop forming unions, but many who otherwise would have married did not, specifically so that the couple could collect the welfare checks and food stamps provided to the "single" woman in addition to the paycheck of the man. That was pretty much the end of the traditional nuclear family in many urban areas, with results that are familiar to us all.

It isn't only young people who will pay, of course. Lovebirds in their 50s will pay an additional (mandatory) $9,000 per year for health insurance if they marry. At these enormous levels of penalty, it is easy to predict that some already married couples will divorce (but still live together) to reduce the pain of their health care bills.

From Allen Quist, guest blogger at Bob McCarty Writes:
  • How much would two single people, each making $30,000 per year, pay for private health insurance if the Pelosi bill was in effect now? The answer is $1,320 per year for both individuals combined (based on the premium limits and subsidies outlined on the charts on p. 3).
  • But how much would they pay for the same level of insurance under the Pelosi bill if they were to marry? Their combined cost would then be about $12,000 a year (the estimated cost for private insurance).
Allen Quist Article Graphic 12-9-09

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. A large number of people fall within this spread. As premiums for private insurance escalate, as expected, the marriage penalty will become substantially larger.
Once the income of Americans exceeds 400% of the Federal Poverty Level, there are no limits on the premiums they can be charged, and their premiums are no longer subsidized. The poverty level is much higher for two people living unmarried as compared to the same two people being married. That is why citizens in many cases will pay far more for insurance if they are married. Why should married people be subjected to financial discrimination?
The Senate bill also creates a marriage penalty, in this case by imposing a new tax on individuals who make $200,000 annually but it also applies to married couples making $250,000 each year. This marriage tax on the affluent, however, is just the tip of the marriage penalty iceberg in the Senate bill.
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. Should they marry, however, they will pay a combined cost of $11,666 for insurance—a penalty of $9,183 for getting married (based on tables at:
This substantial marriage penalty applies to persons on individual insurance, but, as the Heritage Foundation’s Bob Moffit said, “if an employer has a health care benefits package that is 12 to 13 percent of payroll, and they can solve their problem by paying an 8 percent payroll tax [into the Exchange], I think they’re going to do it,” (New York Times, 9-30-09). And Howard Dean said that, “Small businesses with payrolls of less than half a million dollars don’t have to buy health insurance anymore for any of their employees.”(FNS, 11-29-09).
Businesses will shed their employees and health care dollars into the Exchange, but the dollars that are paid back out will be directed only to those who make less than 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. Those above the Poverty Level will receive none of their previous insurance benefits from businesses. For that reason the new system is income redistribution on steroids.
Senior citizens and small businesses have already been identified as big losers in the health care bills. Married citizens in the middle class need to be added to the list.
Allen Quist is a professor of political science at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minn.

Sources: The numbers on the chart above are based on (a) a chart provided by The Committees on Ways & Means, Energy & Commerce, and Education & Labor, October 29, 2009, see chart on p. 3; (b) the current Federal Poverty Levels; see charts on p. 3; and (c) the estimate that two adults would pay $12,000 annually for individual health insurance with average benefits if their income exceeds 400% of the Federal Poverty Level.
By the way, the "to marry or not to marry" question will apply only to citizens and legal residents of the United States. Illegal aliens will get the usual free ride, no questions asked.

If the financial rewards for identifying terrorists in the U.S. were as great as the penalties for married couples contained in the health care bill, there wouldn't be a terrorist left on the North American continent inside of 6 months.

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