While the Affordable Care Act has promised to make health insurance more, well, affordable for all, some are actually suffering due to new provisions in the legislation. It’s not just the ideological Tea Party politicians that are being hurt due to the rollout of the ACA, but middle-class married couples that are struggling to afford health insurance.
Married couples that earn more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level are ineligible for federal subsidies under the new ACA provisions. “If you’re over 400 percent of poverty, you’re never eligible for premium” support, said Gary Claxton, director of the Health Care Marketplace Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation, speaking to The Atlantic. While 400 percent may seem like a high number, that equals an annual salary of $62,040 for a two-person household, which is an income similar to those held by many middle-class couples.
The Affordable Care Act makes it more difficult for married couples of a certain income to obtain health insurance by creating a unique distinction between married couples and unmarried individuals. Unmarried individuals are still eligible for federal premiums if they earn up to $45,960 per year. Thus, if two unmarried individuals lived together (presumably dating or in a long-term committed relationship with a shared financial plan), they could earn up to $91,920 and still receive federal premiums for their health insurance.
Thus, rather than getting married for tax purposes, it appears as if some married couples might have to consider divorce for health care reasons. The Atlantic reporter referenced two of her friends, a married couple living in New York City. The woman in the relationship recently lost her job and does freelance writing work. The man in the relationship works part-time and does freelance video work. Both are struggling to live in the expensive city, and neither is going to have health insurance after the woman’s COBRA plan ends on January 1st. They make enough money to be ineligible for the Affordable Care Act federal premiums, yet not enough to afford health insurance on their own.
While the income distinction between $62,040 and $91,920 is relatively small and the Atlantic journalists' friends are in a specific situation, there is likely a large amount of married couples that, combined, earn somewhere between those two numbers. All of them face unnecessary difficulties obtaining health insurance, a process the ACA was supposed to make easier.
Taking any chance they can to criticize the law and its implementation, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has declared the Affordable Care Act as “anti-marriage,” CNS News Reports. “It’s both an anti-marriage and pro-divorce provision. I don’t think anybody even knew it was in there,” Gingrich said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”