Obamacare discriminates against married couples, conservative organizations charge. The Affordable Care Act — which also is receiving widespread criticism on numerous other fronts — denies married couples benefits that cohabitating couples receive, the groups say.
"It really places a very high financial reward on particularly middle-aged and other couples to cohabitate rather than to be married," says Robert Rector, senior research fellow for health policy at the Heritage Foundation.
The policy shows what little value President Barack Obama and liberals put on the institution of marriage, Rector said.
"The liberals have been anti-family for decades," Rector told Newsmax. "They have a welfare system, which for poor people deliberately penalizes them when they get married. They treat marriage as some sort of medieval institution that should be done away with. I think this says a lot about liberalism as an ideological movement."
Many married couples stand to lose thousands of dollars in federal subsidies that are granted to singles, Rector said.
The law, he said, "is designed so that you get a subsidy based on your income, but if you are married, the two incomes are added together.
"The higher the income, the less support you get from government, meaning a couple who cohabitates, their incomes are treated separately. If they marry, their incomes are put together and their subsidy goes down," Rector said.
Unlike the myriad of computer glitches that have plagued the HealthCare.gov website — where consumers have struggled to sign up for insurance coverage — the Obamacare marriage penalty is deliberate, Rector said.
"No one would design a system like this and not be aware of the consequences of what they are doing," he said, noting that it is far different from the federal tax code, which offers a separate schedule for married couples, who are not taxed like two individuals.
Critics say the Obamacare marriage penalty sends a bad message about the value of such an important societal institution as marriage.
"I think this is absolutely horrible public policy," says Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis for the American Family Association.
"Public policy should incentivize marriage, support marriage, strengthen marriage, affirm marriage. And here is a massive piece of legislation that penalizes marriages," Fischer said.
Fischer said he watched one anecdotal news account of a couple in New York who were considering divorce because they could not afford healthcare if they stay married.
"In other words, we're way past the point now where this is just a theoretical issue. This is already having a direct impact on people's lives," Fischer said.
As written, the law can be a huge financial incentive for marriages to come apart, Fischer said.
"We have enough challenges as a culture trying to preserve and protect intact marriages and families, so the last thing we need to do is reward people for breaking up," Fischer said.
The marriage penalty has much to do with policies embraced by those on the left, he said.
"Liberals have a vested interest in seeing single women not get married," Fischer said. "Single women represent a reliable voting block for liberal causes."
Rector said the incentive not to marry, or to divorce, could amount to thousands of dollars each year, which could add up to substantial amounts for those who are aging.
"Clearly that would affect matrimonial choices for some people," he said.
"I think some couples will actually divorce because they can get $4,000 to $5,000 per year. People look at this as a one-year thing, but this a very large amount of money over the course of 10 or 15 years," he said.
"There will clearly be some couples that do not marry and some who divorce because they can make $50,000 and they may need that over time."
In addition to devaluing marriage, Obamacare is damaging middle-class values by enhancing people's reliance on government, Rector said.
"It sends an appalling signal to society that if a couple is cohabitating the government gives them a lot more money. We do that in the welfare system, and now we're going to do that to the middle class as well," he said.
About 33 percent of single adults who lived together were uninsured, said the Kaiser Family Foundation. By comparison, just 15 percent of married couples were without insurance.
Cheri Jacobus, a GOP strategist, says the administration and its allies knew exactly what the law would do but lied about its impact on married couples.
"Obama and the Democrats — or at least their well-funded leftist organizations such as Media Matters and Think Progress — spent the past few years denying there were any marriage penalties in Obamacare, along with other out-and-out lies about the president's signature achievement-turned-disaster," Jacobus said.
"But as we now know, married couples with the identical combined income as unmarried couples at certain levels see their Obamacare subsidy cut in half.
"Obamacare is helping to make marriage obsolete as he caters to that part of American culture that is in decay, which, in turn, fosters the growing dependency on government," Jacobus said. "This is exactly as the left wants things to be."
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