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Marriage, divorce and Obamacare

Many people in Minnesota and around the country are talking about Obamacare. Obamacare is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Passed in 2010, Obamacare is a nationwide law with two objectives: improving health insurance for people who already have it and providing health insurance for people who are uninsured.

A New York couple was interviewed by a national news channel recently and said thatthey may be forced to get a divorce to get health insurance. They were married a few years ago, and they said half-jokingly that their relationship led to marriage because one of them needed health insurance, which would be provided by the other's job. However, now they said they might divorce for the same reason.

Under Obamacare, a married couple that earns more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level -that is $62,040 - for a family of two earns too much for subsidies. The situation for the couple is that together as family of only two, they make more than the $62,000 level to qualify for subsidies. The couple explained that they would save thousands of dollars if they got divorced now.

If they lived together unmarried, they would qualify for the subsidies because of their individual income and could actually save hundreds of dollars a month on their health care. If they drop below the 400 percent threshold as a couple, they could get subsidies that are still worth less than what they'd be entitled to as individuals.

According to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 15.4 percent of married people were uninsured in 2012. The percentage for "single adults living together," who did not have insurance was more than twice as high - 33.4 percent.

Obamacare subsidies seem to be more substantial to single people and one- or two-parent families with children in the house than to couples who do not have children. The subsidies were intended to help single mothers and struggling middle-class families with children.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act have called the costly decision the couple faces the "marriage penalty." The couple from New York is looking at other health care options before making the divorce decision.

Source:, "The Hidden Marriage Penalty in Obamacare" Garance Franke-Ruta, Nov. 05, 2013

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