“June” and “Jake” would have gotten married, but now they might not because of President Obama’s health care law, Republicans say.
Adding to their list of criticisms of the Affordable Care Act, opponents say the new law is discouraging marriage by making it easier for Americans to obtain insurance subsidies if they are single than if they are married. They also say the law will encourage women to drop out of the workforce.
“I do know people who will get a divorce to make this work,” said Rep. Paul A. Gosar, Arizona Republican, speaking at a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing Thursday morning. “This plan is based on unplausible applications; it doesn’t fit normal dymanics of the way life on Main Street America works.”
The health care law aims to expand coverage to the 50 million Americans who are uninsured, partly through creating state-based insurance exchanges offering plans supported by government subsidies. Individuals and families are expected to contribute more to their premiums as their incomes rise, up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
But Republicans charged that the federal poverty level doesn’t increase proportionately with each additional member of a household.
“For a bill that is supposed to make Americans healthier, the disincentives for marriage and work under the new health care law are truly startling,” said Diana Furchtgott-Roth, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Ms. Furchtgott-Roth offered an example of two individuals she called “June” and “Jake.” If they each lived alone and earned $21,780, they would sit at 200 percent of the federal poverty level and pay insurance premiums equaling about 6.3 percent of their income. Federal subsidies would cover the rest.
But if June and Jake married, their combined income would be $43,560 — about 300 percent of the poverty line for a family of two. In this scenario, they would still qualify for subsidies but would have to pay a premium close to 9.5 percent of the federal poverty level.
“The temptation would be either not to marry or, if married, to work fewer hours,” Ms. Furchtgott-Roth said. “If either June or Jake were to drop out of the workforce, they would not be affected by the marriage penalty.”