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Health Insurance Forcing Marriages and Divorces


As the economy continues to stumble and falter now well into 2008, there’s no secret that some of the most personal of relationships can begin to feel the strain. Adults become cross with their children as bills pile up; disputes can break out over money and property between friends; and marriages can dissolve as spouses fight over long-term security and finances.

A recent New York Times article highlights a new twist to this old dilemma. As affordable health insurance becomes rarer and more sought after, this integral piece to financial security has begun to prod many couples on the fence to follow through on the step of marriage or divorce.

While the trend is far from being widespread and is difficult to ascertain because it may influence decisions in different ways in different relationships, more and more divorce lawyers and health care professionals are noticing cases in which health care seems to be an explicit motivation for marriage or divorce.

In fact, a recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 7% of adults reported someone in their household being married in the past year to gain access to health insurance. While far from scientific in its findings, the survey does illustrate the real presence of this motivating factor in the American economic landscape.

For most, the concept of health insurance is likely a motivating factor on the timing of marriage, rather than a spur to become married to just anyone. That is, individuals in serious relationships may be more likely to choose to get married now rather than wait if they face a challenge that health insurance would solve, such as a job loss, illness or unplanned pregnancy.

On the flip side, some married couples who might otherwise have sought a divorce find themselves staying married to hold on to health insurance. A chronic illness requiring prescription drugs or a severe illness recovery might in fact cause some couples to put aside their feelings to work out a type of deal.

Yet some couples might find that a personal policy is better than family policy, depending on the company, policy and health situation of the family, meaning that they might divorce to improve their health insurance lot.

What all of these trends have in common is that they treat marriage as a business transaction as opposed to a commitment of personal affection. There are certainly benefits to this perspective, though it's not always possible for people to consider one of the most significant, long-term and intimate relationships in their life in this business-like manner.

Still, isn't there no better indication that the health care system in American is broken than that people have to alter their lives drastically in order to keep insurance against health problems? Decisions on marriage and divorce should never be taken lightly, but is this, finally, what it's come to?

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