Health care

Married couples at disadvantage under ObamaCare

Documents show White House, HHS were warned about website in March


Couples enrolling in ObamaCare now face a de facto marriage penalty, with the law making it much harder for those who are married to qualify for subsidies. 

According to the conservative Heritage Foundation, married couples could pay as much as $10,000 more per year than their unmarried counterparts, due to the way subsidies are calculated. 

The subsidies under the Affordable Care Act are based on income. The less you make, the more money you can get from the government to help pay for insurance. 

An individual making above $45,960 would not qualify. For a married couple, the income cut-off is $62,040. 

These rules, then, create a disconnect in how non-married and married couples are treated. 

Two people living together -- but not married -- could both qualify for thousands of dollars in subsidies, provided each of their incomes is below $45,960. If they each make $40,000, no problem. 

But if they're married, their combined salary would put them above the cap, and they would not qualify for any government help. 

Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, describes this as a built-in bias. 

"It's a system that preferentially rewards the exact same people for not being married. ... It's as if they took the income tax code and took away all the tables that relate to married couples," he told the Deseret News. 

Rector sees an ideological bent in the law, because married couples often lean Republican while those who are unmarried often lean Democrat. 

However, the treatment is not all that unusual for a federal program. This often happens when the government ties any kind of subsidies or benefits, such as food stamps or housing assistance, to federal poverty levels. 

Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, said he doesn't think anyone was trying to "discourage marriage" with this particular provision of ObamaCare. 

"It just comes from the commonsense axiom that two people married can live together more cheaply than two people living separately," he said. 

Fox News' Molly Henneberg contributed to this report.