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June 11, 2008

California Health Insurance: Extreme Matrimony Edition

Some couples, straight and gay, are finagling wedding dates to quickly get both spouses on a company plan. Other married couples cruising for a breakup can at least agree on postponing divorce to keep both people on the existing California health plan of one of them. And some self-employed people are hiring workers just to qualify for group insurance, Dow Jones Newswires’ Victoria E. Knight reports.

The rub is basic. Under federal law, insurers have charge the same for premiums for everybody in an employer-sponsored insurance plan–no matter their health. But try buying health insurance on the open market, and you may face high prices or rejection, depending on your medical history.

One planner told Knight about a client, a woman in her mid-50s, who moved up her wedding so that her fiance, would also become eligible for health benefits offered to workers and spouses as part of a corporate buyout package at her job.

A business owner in California, covered under a small group insurance plan, put her husband on the payroll largely for insurance reasons. “I hired my husband to run my office and manage the IT,” the woman told Dow Jones, who asked not to be named for fear of drawing the attention of insurers.

Seven percent of Americans said that in the past year they or someone in their household decided to tie the knot mainly so one spouse would be eligible for the other’s California health coverage, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. We were a little skeptical about the figure, which by our calculation seemed a bit high, but have little doubt that insurance worries weigh heavily on millions, married or otherwise.

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Posted by healthinsurance at June 11, 2008 09:00 PM