Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Not Getting Married for Health Insurance

Today's New York Daily News had an interesting article about a reporter and his wife who canceled their original wedding and opted for a no frills wedding in Central Park. It's kind of a cute story and as someone who is planning a wedding herself I was interested to see one bride's journey to what is arguably one of the most important days of her life. Yet, as a woman who almost recently lost her job myself, I was more than a little put off by the author's decision to marry for, in her words, health care coverage.

On Monday night, our save-the-date notes finally arrived, ready to be proofed.

On Tuesday morning, when I went into work, I became one of the 294,000 New Yorkers who will lose their jobs before this recession is done.

In my case, due to budget cutbacks, the next day would be my last on the job. I had five days of health care left. After that, I would be responsible for paying my own COBRA (temporary coverage), a punishing $500 a month.

I called to tell Adam the news. "Do you want me to cancel the dog walker?" he asked. I burst into tears.

That night, we sat down to discuss our delicate new economic balance.
"Well," I ventured, "we could get married."

I suppose I should be more sympathetic. Losing your job sucks. Having to pay COBRA would also suck. Luckily if I had been laid off I was going to be covered under the State's health plan at only $48 a month for one year so I wasn't going to be subject to the same fate. Yet, of course when it seemed all was hopeless I thought "heck, why don't we just do this at City Hall?" That way we'd save a ton on forgoing the typical wedding and I wouldn't have any out of pocket health care expenses. Heck, even if we got married tomorrow and my fiance went on my health care coverage, his small employer would cut him a $4000 check for going off their plan.

But it just seems like this chick just wanted an easy out. She frets about canceling her dog-walker? She also mentions an impromptu honeymoon trip to Vancouver. Not once does she mention having a pre-existing condition and yes I realize health insurance is not something even the healthy should do without, but for $500 a month I would have just but the bullet for five months until her pre-planned September wedding.

Also nothing in the article talks about her realizing that spending a lot of money on a wedding wasn't something she and her husband placed a lot of value on given their current cirumstances. Tell me if you read it differently but to me it sounds like "I needed health insurance so we got married," Not very romantic.

If there's anything to learn from this experience it's this: don't plan a wedding until you have emergency savings to fall back on in case of, well, an emergency. I'll be trying my best to do just that in the coming months.


Shtinkykat said...

I frankly don't see anything wrong, especially since they were going to get married anyways. If she suddenly decided to marry a schmo she previously didn't care about just to get health coverage, now that's another story!

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ldub said...

i think it seems fine, too - i mean, they were already planning a wedding, and $500 a month is a lot to come up with. speeding up the "official" part to make sure you continue quality health care seems much less mercenary than other reasons i see to marry!

Anonymous said...

They were going to get married anyway, so continuing to pay $500 for no reason seems daft. Isn't it romantic that her partner cares about her having health coverage and not wanting her exposed to financial ruin in case she got hit by a truck? Maybe not romantic in that white bells and dresses for a day way, but romantic in a I've got your back with the serious stuff way.

savings said...

That makes perfect sense to me. It's not like they decided to get married just because of the insurance… they were already getting hitched! If I were in the same situation, I might get married right then and there, even if I still went ahead with my big wedding plans later.

mizz_b said...

It's about the marriage not the wedding. Yes, your wedding day is important, but nearly as important as making sure that those you love are well taken care of, and yes, even insured.

Escape Brooklyn said...

I agree with other commenters that it was a perfectly fine, practical decision.

But I have a hard time taking the "romantic" notion of marriage all that seriously considering what people pay for weddings and the subsequent 50% divorce rate.

Jim ~ mydebtblog.com said...

She needed health insurance so she gets married earlier than planned. It seems a bit cynical to worry about health insurance coverage above all else. I think people are starting to take benefits as some sort of 'right' instead of what they actually are. As the debate of universal health care grows, the burden of taking care of yourself will be provided to you by the government. This is a crazy idea, but why not just get another job?

LT said...

She didn't get married for health insurance, she moved up the wedding day and cut the expenses so that she can have health insurance. There is a big difference between the two. I see nothing wrong with that. Maybe I'm the only one that thinks this but, when you don't have a job, even if you have savings, paying an extra $500 a month, even for health coverage, can not be easy. And, these days, finding another job is not as easy as we would like it to be. If I remember, when she found out she was losing her job, she only had five days of coverage left. I don't know anyone that found a new job in five days.

ldub said...

forgot that i was going to add to my comment! anyway, i actually considered doing the legal wedding in private early and just not telling anyone and still holding the "official" wedding this year. why? because once i marry, my husband's health insurance will cover me for $30 a month and be the *exact* insurance i have now... which means that i could consider going freelance right away, leaving my day job. though i ultimately decided against it, i don't think doing that would have made my marriage any less fantastic. practicality sneaks in on every fluffy bridal dream, and this is just one more spot to make sure you don't have tulle blinders on!

Anonymous said...

Personally, I would have gotten legally married (yes, for the health insurance!) then continued on with the ceremony planning if it was important to me. Though I can see wanting a smaller ceremony if facing sudden unemployment.

Hmm, seems like everyone already said that. I don't know, I don't exactly see the legal part as intertwined with the celebration part. But some people do.