For Better, for Worse�and for Health Insurance

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 7% of Americans surveyed said that they or someone in their household had married within the past year to get access to their spouse�s health insurance policy. Unlike a �green card� marriage, however, where two strangers marry so that one can stay in the country legally, health insurance unions are mostly between two people who have been in a long-term relationship. Many never intended to marry or didn�t plan on getting married so soon, until health circumstances made marriage an almost inevitable fiscal choice.

Love and money have been the driving forces behind marriages for centuries, but marrying for health insurance is a modern trend that is apparently growing.

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 7% of Americans surveyed said that they or someone in their household had married within the past year to get access to their spouse’s health insurance policy. Unlike a “green card” marriage, however, where two strangers marry so that one can stay in the country legally, health insurance unions are mostly between two people who have been in a long-term relationship. Many never intended to marry or didn’t plan on getting married so soon, until health circumstances made marriage an almost inevitable fiscal choice.

Some experts see the trend as fallout from the soaring out-of-pocket cost of health insurance, with premiums, co-pays, and deductibles all on the rise. The average premium on a non-group policy for a family of four is $9,100, according to the Kaiser Foundation, and coverage for a single person runs an average of $3,400 per year. With health coverage costs heading for their fourth straight year of double-digit increases in 2009, it’s not hard to see why couples are deciding to marry for insurance.

Couples who are walking down the aisle for the sake of better health coverage should use some caution, however, say financial mavens. Researching the effect that being married will have on their income taxes is a must. Although the “marriage tax” isn’t as onerous as it once was, it could still have a significant impact on the couple’s tax bill. Another good idea is a pre-nuptial agreement that spells out what will happen to the health insurance if the marriage hits a detour down the road.