Health Insurance: The New ‘I Love You’

There is a certain factor that’s been creeping into romantic relationships in the past few years, making them just a little less warm and fuzzy: health insurance. When one side of a relationship has health insurance, particularly as a benefit from a job that is happy to cover family members as well, there’s a new dimension added to the question of just when to get married (or, depending on certain details, to declare that you’re in a domestic partnership). Over the past century or so, it’s become fairly common to say that money isn’t important in choosing who you fall in love with. But health insurance is a different story.

Sometimes I say that I married my husband for the health insurance. Don’t get me wrong: I love my husband dearly. We would have been together whether or not I had the option of jumping on his plan as his spouse. But the timing of when we tied the knot did have something to do with some dental work I needed dealt with. Because I work for myself, affording my own health insurance of the variety that would have made a trip to the dentist is non-trivial. So we got hitched and I got both cake and dental work out of that happy occasion.

Just Married…For the Health Insurance

We’re definitely not the only people I know who did something similar. There are actually a lot of people in entrepreneur circles who have made similar decisions: a spouse working a job that offers health insurance is a very good thing for anyone who wants to work for herself to keep around.

But it does make for a very different kind of kink in a relationship. If, for instance, both you and your other half want to start your own businesses, you might wind up with an argument about who gets to make the leap first — and just how long the other one is willing to work a day job to keep health insurance. It can also make for a new set of difficulties when a relationship ends. There have been plenty of stories in the media about now-broken up couples continuing to live together because they can’t afford to sell their houses. There are fewer about people trying to maintain a relationship or at least not change their legal status because they need to keep their health insurance. If the health insurance industry continues to operate as it does currently in this country, it’s just a matter of time until we hear more about such situations.

Plenty of women have found themselves stuck in bad relationships because of money. It’s disheartening to think that a woman can solve the money problem, but still be up a creek because of health insurance.

The Health Insurance Culture

Problems with health insurance have become a cultural touchstone in this country. It would be nice if we could change things, but the system isn’t exactly fast moving. We’re not so far gone that we have to view all romantic entanglements with an eye to landing a nice piece of health insurance. But it is a factor that can truly impact the decisions you make once you have found that special someone, and that’s a scary thought.

Image by Flickr user tedaytan

This post is a part of Women’s Money Week 2012. For more posts about relationships and money, see womensmoneyweek.com.

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