HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The New Romance: Marrying for Health Insurance

Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that approximately 7 percent of the population marries for health insurance.  The LATimes reports further on their findings,

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.

"It's a small number but a powerful result, because it shows how paying for healthcare is reflected not only in family budgets but in life decisions," said Drew E. Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which commissioned the survey as part of its regular polling on healthcare.

On a broader scale, the survey found that healthcare costs outranked housing costs, rising food prices and credit card bills as a source of concern. Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed said they had experienced serious problems because of the cost of healthcare, compared with 29% who had problems getting a good job or a raise. Gasoline prices were the top economic worry, with 44% saying they had serious problems keeping up with increases at the pump.  . . . .

Healthcare inflation has been rising at about twice the rate of economic growth, and it's unclear how much of a difference better prevention, computerized medical records and other ideas for containing costs might prove to be.

But with employer-based health insurance averaging $12,000 for family coverage and $4,500 for individuals, the public concern with costs is understandable. Nearly a fourth of Americans said they had decided to keep or change jobs in the last year because of health insurance.

What surprised researchers was that such costs had become a factor in marriage decisions. "We should have asked about divorce," said Altman, joking.

Those who cited health insurance as a factor in deciding to marry tended to have modest incomes. About 6 in 10 were in households making less than $50,000 a year, said Mollyann Brodie, who directs Kaiser's opinion research. They also were younger, with 4 in 10 between 18 and 34.

"We don't know a lot more about them," Brodie said. "Just that they answered that of all the reasons for getting married, [health insurance] was also a reason, was surprising." . . .

The Kaiser polling, conducted April 3-13, surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,003 adults, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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