Alex Blaze

Married for health care

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 29, 2008 7:51 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: health care reform, Kaiser Family Foundation, marriage, poll, study

The LA Times reports that people marry for health care:

WASHINGTON -- Some people marry for love, some for companionship, and others for status or money. Now comes another reason to get hitched: health insurance.

In a poll released today, 7% of Americans said they or someone in their household decided to marry in the last year so they could get healthcare benefits via their spouse.

Since there isn't same-sex marriage throughout most of the US, I'm going to assume that the vast majority of that 7% is heterosexual couples. It's not at all surprising, though, considering how health care is distributed along the lines of marriage and how little people question the wrongness of it all. More on that after.

I found the link to the health care poll through SusanG, who writes:

Can't wait to hear the right-wing wurlitzer crank up to demand universal health insurance to preserve the sanctity of wedlock. Surely all those desperately non-insured brides and grooms hooking up are threatening the marriages of all the rest of us. Right?

That is, though, the whole point of associating all sorts of rights with marriage. Remember Milagros Irizarry vs. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, where a teacher at a Chicago school wanted DP health care benefits, available to unmarried gay extended to unmarried straight couples? Lambda Legal filed an amicus brief on her behalf, and the court derided Lambda with:

Lambda wants to knock marriage off its perch by requiring the board of education to treat unmarried heterosexual couples as well as it treats married ones, so that marriage will lose some of its luster.

The point of tying these benefits and rights to marriage is to get people into marriages, fast and rough. The Religious Right doesn't care at all if these marriages are "legit" in any romantic sense or happy for the people involved, they just want to get more people in heterosexual marriages and stop sex from occurring outside of the confines of that institution. Period.

While I'm sure that most of those 7% are doing alright, I'm concerned with the power it gives the partner who's getting access to the health care through his or her wealth or job, especially in cases of disability or chronic illness. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that people who want to leave a marriage, for whatever reason, should be able to without worrying about where they're going to get their next prescription filled.

This is just another reason why we need single-payer health care in this country. People should be able to make choices about marrying or not marrying based on what they want, not how they need access to health care.

And people who can't find someone with good health care to marry are just as worthy of accessing health care as anyone who can.


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Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | April 29, 2008 9:01 PM

The issue is not just that healthcare is distributed along marriage lines. It is also that healthcare is tied to employment status. If you are lucky enough to have a job that offers health insurance, good for you. If not, you are likely among the 48,000,000 Americans without healthcare.

That's just what I'm thinking, Michael. And considering the discrimination many LGBT Americans face on the job, we're still at a disadvantage there.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 30, 2008 5:47 AM

You know the whole idea of romantic love having anything to do with marriage is a pretty recent invention. Now of the 7% who chose to be married for health benies I am certain that it was in the whole "basket" of goodies they were looking for. I know hetero couples where the wife is the primary insurance provider. Guess what? If it is a partnership there is no residual power from having health benefits. If rocky times come the last thing people are thinking about is getting a prescription renewed.

Health care should be universal and untied to marriage in any way. The best way to sell that concept to a frightened Republican is to tell them that the plague that comes does not care if your child or grandchild has health coverage or is without it. If they are exposed to something drug resistant they may well die in any case. Lack of preventive medicine is creating an enviornment where portions of America are becoming either creation points for the next pandemic virus or remarkably susceptable to that virus. Health care should be universal in the world to protect against this. China can afford to do this, but much of Asia and Africa cannot.

All the more reason for universal health care that isn't dependent upon marital status OR employment status.

I remember when the Hawaii debates were going on in the 90s, one of the arguments made against same-sex marriage was that we were only perusing the economic benefits like health care (subtly implying that our relationships weren't based on love, dehumanizing us). An argument businesses made when the state halfheartedly enacted civil unions (strictly as a way to have a defense when the marriage case went to the state supreme court) was that they were worried about how people might take advantage of civil unions and commit fraud to make them pay for health benefits... since, y'know, heterosexuals only marry out of the purity of their love.

So. Wait, straight people get married for reasons other than love, too? I'm shocked.