One bizarre feature of the Senate-passed health care bill is its pervasive bias against marriage. Under the bill, couples would face massive financial penalties if they marry or remain married. Conversely, couples who cohabit without marriage are given highly preferential financial treatment. If the Senate bill becomes law, saying “I do” would cost some couples over $10,000 per year.
Most people feel that marriage is a healthful institution that society should encourage and strengthen. Inexplicably, the Senate health care bill takes the opposite approach. At nearly all age and income levels, the bill profoundly discriminates against married couples, providing far less support to a husband and wife than to a cohabiting couple with the same income. If the bill is enacted, married couples across America will be taxed to provide discriminatory benefits to couples who cohabit, divorce, or never marry.
Analyzing Anti-Marriage Discrimination in the Senate Health Care Bill
The Senate bill is designed to provide health care benefits that are substantially more generous for lower-income persons. The bill’s anti-marriage penalties occur because of the income counting and benefit structure rules of the bill. If a two-earner couple is married, the bill counts their income jointly; since the joint income will be higher, a married couple’s health care subsidies would be lower.
By contrast, if a couple cohabits rather than marrying, the bill counts each partner’s income separately. Separate counting means that, all else being equal, cohabiters would be treated as having lower incomes and therefore receive disproportionately greater government benefits. The bottom line: under the bill, a cohabiting couple would receive substantially higher health care subsidies than a married couple even when the total incomes of both couples are identical.Tables showing these points are available on Heritage.org's website