Monday, April 26, 2010

Could health care bill kill incentive to marry?

I came upon a potentially ominous analysis of the new health care bill that argues the bill's implementation in 2013 could spell the end of marriage. At least it would make marriage seem much less attractive for middle-income earners.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, who clearly was not impressed with the Democrats' epic push to reform the American health care system, writes about the bill:
"Two singles would each be able to earn $43,000 and still receive help to purchase health insurance, but if they got married and combined their earnings to $86,000, they would be far above the limit. As a married couple, the most they could earn and still get government help would be $58,000, a difference of almost $30,000, or 32%. This looks like a substantial disincentive to getting married, or to working while married."

I agree that this particular reality of the bill is less than desirable, and it's something I'll be forced to deal with if I ever make it back Stateside. It doesn't seem fair for the would-be brides and grooms of the lower middle class to get tangled up in the intersection of tax brackets. But the cutoff for government tax credits has to be somewhere, doesn't it?

I'd also be willing to bet that workers earning a salary of 40-50 grand would have jobs that provide health benefits anyway, and, as so many health-care-reform opponents frequently pointed out, most Americans are happy with the health plans they currently have.

Ms Furchtgott-Roth has a point that workers at this unfortunate crossroad who are thinking of marriage will have a tricky decision to make. What I am unclear about is how employer-provided health insurance is affected by these tax credits and whether or not employers are somehow let off the hook if their employees are receiving credits. At what point are employers required to start paying a fine if they're not providing insurance, and is the insurance employers provide necessarily better or worse than what can be bought with credits? No one ever said this wasn't complex... any ideas out there?

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