"After Obamacare rolled out, we realized that we would save thousands of dollars if we got divorced," Aronowitz told CBS 2 in New York. The couple makes more than $62,000, which disqualifies them for subsidies. If they legally split up, however, both would qualify for subsidies, saving them hundreds of dollars a month on health care.
Now before you start getting up and arms and saying "this is wrong!" and "I can't believe the government is breaking up couples," you should know that this Brooklyn couple married over health insurance, too. They were dating. One of them lost a job. They got married so one could insure the other. It's somewhat fitting that they might divorce over the same thing that brought them together.
Still, plenty of critics are complaining about the "Obamacare Marriage Penalty." Before you follow this Brooklyn couple's lead and make an appointment with a divorce attorney, consider that:
1. A divorce will probably cost you more than you'll save in health insurance. The typical one will run you a minimum of $1,820 (for an uncontested divorce handled through mediation) to hundreds of thousands of dollars (for a contested divorced handled in the courts), according to reporting by Divorce360.com. Plus, there's the cost of accountants and financial advisors, especially if you are liquidating and splitting 401Ks and other assets.
2. Staying married saves you lots of money. It's an easy equation. Two people + one rent = fewer bounced checks. And it's more than just two people combining to pay one rent. You're also pooling two incomes to buy one mattress, one fridge, one dishwasher, one house, the list goes on.
Despite all the political talk about marriage tax penalties, many people pay lower taxes when they marry, reports Yahoo! Finance, especially if they take advantage of the more than 1000 different tax and legal provisions for married people. Married people tend to also get breaks on home and car insurance. According to reporting done by The Atlantic magazine, a married woman stands to save more than a million dollars in taxes, social security, investment payouts, healthcare costs, and housing over her lifetime compared to a single woman.
3. Affordable Health Care Act subsidies are designed for people who need them the most. "This couple's combined household income puts then in a higher income level. By divorcing to get higher premiums, they are gaming the system and trying to turn something that is designed to help people who need it into something they feel is their right," says Debra Gordon, a healthcare consultant based in Williamsburg, VA and who writes about healthcare and other topics.
4. Despite the marriage penalty, most people will still save money on health insurance. Yes, it depends on many factors (where you live, the insurance your employer was already offering, and much more), but thanks to the so-called Obamacare, the vast majority of people are going to save on healthcare premiums, even married people. This is true even if you don't qualify for subsidies. Take my family. I'm self-employed. My husband is a stay-at-home dad. We have one child. Before the Affordable Health Care Act, our premiums were above $1000 a month for plans that included hefty deductibles and co-pays and explicitly did not cover things like pregnancy (not that I'm planning on having another, but just saying). When I shopped for coverage, I learned that, as expected, my family did not qualify for subsidies. Even so, I found several good plans for about $700 a month in premiums. That's a few hundred a month in savings, and that's without the subsidies. All of the plans were comparable - if not better - than our current coverage. In my opinion, January cannot come soon enough.
Perhaps most important of all: isn't marriage about more than one's bank account? When he walked me to the car, leaned toward me and kissed me for the first time many years ago, I knew that, one day, in the not so distant future, I would eventually marry the man who is now my husband. I didn't marry him because I wanted to make my financial life go more smoothly, just as I did not decide to have a child so I could take an extra deduction on my income taxes.
It's possible that I could save even more on health insurance if I divorce my husband. I choose not to even consider the option because my marriage is worth more than any of the dollars I could possibly save.
- By Alisa Bowman
For the 10 marriage lessons the Obamas can teach us, visit Babble!