Health insurance is a big deal. People pay a fortune to make sure that they keep coverage, if only because they expect to pay several fortunes for health care without insurance. And if you have even a hangnail that could be considered a pre-existing condition, the nightmare of losing your health insurance and being unable to get it back can haunt you.
But paying for COBRA or purchasing private insurance isn’t the only approach that some people take. A marriage license with the right name on it could be the only thing standing between you and health insurance. Would you get married just to make sure you can go to the doctor when you need to?
Just How Far Will You Go?
I joke a lot about how I married my husband for his health insurance. We’d been together for quite a while and hadn’t set a date. I certainly didn’t have health insurance — freelance writers aren’t exactly known for having fantastic health care packages. My husband, on the other hand, has very nice health insurance.
In truth, we didn’t get hitched just because I needed health insurance. But we did do it a little sooner than we might have otherwise.
I can think of plenty of similar stories where someone made a pretty personal choice just because of health insurance. A friend of a friend has remained married to his wife for seventeen years after he first contemplated divorce because she would lose her health insurance and she has a debilitating condition that would make it impossible for her to get insurance on her own that would cover her needs or work enough to get a good health insurance package. They haven’t even lived in the same state for more than fifteen years, but health insurance is the tie that binds.
Some Decisions Are a Little Less Extreme
Not all health insurance decisions come down to something so life-changing as a wedding or a divorce. But looking for a job based on the health insurance it offers has become very common. There are plenty of people who willingly take a job below their expectations because it can provide their family with health insurance. In the current economic situation, it’s tough enough to find a job with health insurance, let alone one that matches your other expectations.
There are also plenty of families where one spouse takes a job only to provide health insurance. It’s a common situation in farming communities: one family member will take a job with health insurance, even if it means hours commuting, because even a successful farm doesn’t offer the funds to provide health insurance for the whole family. The same holds true for many entrepreneurs — one partner gets to pursue his or her dream, while the other makes sure that there is health insurance.
Such approaches seem a little easier, but I think that they can have far more of an impact on a person’s life. Getting married can be a matter of going to a courthouse with a friend and filling out some forms. But going to a job that you hate, day after day, can drain you.
The Personal Decision
Honestly, I’m not sure how far I would ultimately go just to keep my health insurance. I have a personal preference of just finding enough money to pay for a policy if things come down to it — but that certainly can sound a lot easier than it is.
My family didn’t usually have health insurance when I was growing up. I know that I don’t want to go back to a situation where a simple doctor’s visit was absolutely stressful.
Some of my family members are headed in that direction right now, though, due to a layoff. We’ve been going through all the different options that we can think of, down to transferring custody of a couple of minors to family members with health insurance. The expense of COBRA payments are out of reach in a family where the breadwinner suddenly lost the income, although a few people have offered to lend a portion of the necessary funds.
It’s a tough situation to be in. There’s no way to say, “this is too far to go for health insurance” if your family’s health is in question. What would you do in this case?