First Person: A Marriage Penalty in ObamaCare Hurts My Finances

Yahoo Contributor Network

When I first read about the penalties for opting out of health insurance, I was shocked. What made me so surprised was the fact that my penalty as a married woman would be based on my household income. In other words, as a woman married to a high-earning male, I'd pay a higher penalty. Moreover, I wouldn't be eligible for subsidies if I did decide to sign up for the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges because of our family income. ObamaCare seems a little sexist to me. Of course, I've never complained about the opposite such as financial incentives or tax credits for being hitched. According to recent article by The Atlantic, some women are seriously considering divorce as a way of dealing with the marriage penalty. I think that's a terrible idea on every level, but it's shameful to think the government's health care program could dissuade couples from marrying or nudge anyone to divorce.

Shacking up to save

Without sounding too much like radio personality "Dr. Laura," I've never believed it was a smart financial decision to live with someone instead of committing to marriage. However, the new health care rules are squeezing me and other people in a dual-income middle-class marriage. According to the Atlantic, a married couple that earns about $62,040 for a family of two or 400 percent of the federal poverty level, can't receive ObamaCare subsidies or assistance. At the same time, two people living together could each earn up to $45,960 and receive subsidies. Together, the couple shacking up could earn $91,920 combined.

Paying the penalty

According the website, Obama Care Facts, the ObamaCare tax penalty or "shared responsibility fee" is $95 per person or 1 percent of household income. It might not seem so bad, but it goes up to $695 or 2.5 percent of household income by 2017. By 2018, it's the rate of inflation going forward or 2.5 percent of household income. Inflation could skyrocket in the next several decades. Of course, the government wants people to pay whichever is higher of the two options. I'd be penalized for being married to a high-wage earner. If my husband wasn't making as much, I'd potentially be penalized by high inflation rates.

If Obama wants people to embrace the new health care exchanges, he needs to completely eliminate the so-called shared responsibility fee. The new system should be able to function without taxing people who want to opt out. If lawmakers won't eliminate the tax penalty, they should base it on a person's individual income as opposed to the household income. I would much more prefer to pay higher sales taxes or possibly higher income taxes as opposed to shared responsibility fee that is being forced on me. As it is, I still have my own private health insurance plan through my job. I doubt I'll ever go without health insurance of some kind. I just want the freedom to make my own choices. And, I don't want to pay more for health insurance because I've done the responsible thing and stayed married all these years.

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