Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Health Insurance

I was complaining over the weekend about jobs that don't offer benefits, and my friend said, "but doesn't Mark's job just cover you?"  He, being unmarried, with mostly unmarried friends, stated that he thought that covering a spouse for free was standard for a company.  I believe I laughed in his face.

When we got married, I had GradMed coverage in case I got hit by a car.  Immediately after we got back from our honeymoon, we filled out the paperwork to be put on Mark's insurance.  I knew the insurance wasn't great, but I was glad to have it, even though it meant we were paying more than $200 a month.  Until I went to get a prescription filled and the co-pay made my jaw drop.  But the real jaw-dropping moment happened a couple months later, when the company changed insurance, and the amount we were paying for me was going to go up to more like $350.  I was still unemployed at this time.

So I started shopping for an individual plan.  I turned to, which could cover me right away (they are not paying me to write this) and I had to pick between several plans.  But as we tried to navigate the question of how high a deductible we wanted and what kind of benefits I needed (I get injured a lot), it was pretty difficult.  Eventually I settled on a plan that seemed to get me the most for my money, and I went with it.  I actually haven't used it yet, other than logging into the website, but I feel good to have it.  We got lucky on one thing - I could stay on Mark's dental and optical insurance, without paying for the rest of it, so I don't have to pay out of pocket on that.

I know talking to a lot of other married couples that they face similar issues.  Their spouse's insurance doesn't cover them, it's lousy, it's non-existent.  There's also the issue that Lauren is facing, which is that she hasn't gotten on her husband's insurance yet, but she's been sick since their honeymoon.  Fewer and fewer jobs are offering health insurance benefits now, and more and more people are in one or more of these situations.

We never for a second considered that I could go without insurance.  Firstly, I'm accident prone, and I'm downright unlucky.  Secondly, I go to the doctor pretty regularly, or if something is wrong.  Thirdly, hospital bills are one of the leading causes of financial troubles and bankruptcy, and I didn't want a stupid risk we took early on in our marriage to destroy our life savings.  Illness or bankruptcy could still destroy us, but with insurance, I feel a little bit better.

Has anyone else been surprised to find that getting health insurance by getting married isn't as easy as we were led to believe? Did anyone get married specifically to get health insurance coverage?


  1. We're really, really lucky - both of B's jobs have had good insurance packages, and it cost very little extra to add a spouse; it's one of the big reasons we got married when we did (e.g. only a 7 mo. engagement). I researched and got on an "medium" coverage individual plan after I graduated, and even though I barely used it, it was crummy and expensive.

    I've never been without coverage; I'm too freaked out to tempt fate that way. I have several friends, though, who've gone years without insurance after getting out of grad school.

  2. This is a little bizarre writing a comment just under another Maggie whose husband's name also starts with B! In any case, our situation is a bit different. Since B and i met in law school I have always been covered (first through school insurance, then through various jobs or an individual plan that found through as well). B on the other hand has not been covered for parts of that time and I feel like I have to knock on wood every day that he doesn't get hurt. Luckily he is not accident prone, or likely to go to the doctor nearly as often as myself, but it's still a HUGE worry. Except that all of the individual plans that we've looked at are pretty expensive and don't cover much. Which just seems worthless. And covering him through my job doesn't make sense (too expensive for a really not so great plan).

    In any event, insurance remains a huge worry for me, and I can't wait until he finds a job with great benefits... hopefully soon!

  3. My apologies, meant to say spouse, not husband. Didn't mean to assume!

  4. Ugh! Stephen never asked how much it would be to add me and we stupidly assumed we could afford whatever it was. Only after adding me did we discover that it would be $500 a month. Uh, no. That's a third of our joint budget. I'm doing school insurance for another semester instead. At least when I start my job in January I'll have good coverage again but I won't have been to an eye doctor, dentist or gyno in two years by then...

  5. @A Long Far View - Your name is Maggie, too? So funny! I don't run into very many. Now I'm curious what your B's name is, ha.

    [and I totally get the not-assuming, but in this case, you were correct :)]

  6. we both had crap jobs (until i chose to stay home). now he has a crap job. so there have been limited insurance options all around and we're stuck going without once my insurance runs out this september. little josh will go on govt funded insurance, but we're both used to trying not to get sick or injured.

  7. I've never gone without health insurance (even when between jobs/schools, I got a high-deductible policy just in case of something catastrophic) because I'm paranoid and know that the second I don't have coverage, I'll fall down the stairs and break my neck. Although my health insurance premiums increased about 6x the previous amount this year, my wife and I are pretty fortunate that we both have access to reasonably-priced health insurance through our employers. We are also fortunate that if one of us were to lose our job, we could be added to the other's insurance because we work in a state where we are legally married (and in any case, both employers offer domestic partner insurance too).

    But what makes me truly crazy is that if we were to do that, we would have to pay taxes on the portion of the spouse's health insurance that is covered by the employer. In other words, not only would we pay the additional premiums, but whatever portion of that insurance is covered by the employer would be added to the working spouse's check as income and we'd have to pay the IRS for it. I know that given the situations others talk about, I should be glad that we do have a back-up option in an emergency. But that extra cost beyond what other married couples would have to pay means we do have to think a little harder and budget a little more carefully before we could even consider one of us quitting a job to go back to school, take care of a child, etc. It's just one of many reasons why the repeal of DOMA (however far in the future that may be) can't come fast enough...

  8. Like Maggie above, we did not get married *just* for insurance, but we got married when we did so that I could be on his plan before I quit my job to go to law school full time (since we'd been together for 7 years, we were pretty much ready anytime). We are very lucky that I do not have to be on overpriced, crap school insurance and that his company has great coverage and that we are hetero and our marriage *counts* everywhere...