Friday, October 10, 2008

Will You Marry Me? I Have Health Insurance

Charles Jamieson, a Palm Beach, Florida attorney recently pointed out a subtle trend with families in an excellent post about the role of health insurance in family life. He wrote the following in his Palm Beach County Family Law Blog:

"Getting married for money or for wealth dates back to genesis or even earlier. Divorce attorneys and most other people are aware of this dynamic and probably know people who have married for this reason. However, getting married for health insurance coverage is not so well known. This lesser known behavior should not be surprising, given the difficulty people have in today's society finding and affording reasonably priced health insurance. Consequently, for some modern couples, the words: 'In Sickness or in Health' have taken on an actuarial meaning. These couples may not be marrying for 'richer or for poorer'. Instead, they may be getting married for affordable co-pays and deductibles. These couples weigh any marital doubts that they may have against the medical needs that they do have. For the same reasons, a spouse may prolong an unhappy marriage so that they can maintain affordable health insurance coverage. With either scenario, the psychological pressures can be immense. A recent article in The New York Times profiled a number of couples, who have dealt with the motivation of obtaining health insurance in terms of becoming married or divorced. To review this article, please click here."

Charles points out how economic and/or medical conditions can directly affect one's marital status, both encouraging some to marry and encouraging some to stay married. With medical expenses being one of the leading contributors to price increases, the situation is likely to become more common.

Another way to deal with the situation is to use a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement. Those agreements can be used for estate planning purposes as well as controlling the impact of debt and medical expenses. Parties can technically remain married, which can keep insurance in effect, but have all of their assets and debts divided by a binding agreement. Likewise, an older couple might marry to maximize some retirement or insurance benefits, but operate under a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement for tax or family (keeping peace with their children) reasons.

Sometimes attorneys are able to help people come up with creative solutions for emotional and financial difficulties. The best advice: Look (go see an attorney) before you leap. Find an attorney with the experience, expertise and willingness to be creative. Solutions are available if you look in the right places.

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