After 33 years of marriage, Linda and Larry Drain of Maryville, Tenn., separated—but only so Linda could have health care coverage that was threatened by federal bureaucracy, according to The Tennessean.
The Drains are among 162,000 Tennesseans who are caught up in the health coverage gap.
They made too much in combined income to qualify for Medicaid, the public health insurance program for poorer Americans. But they earned too little to be eligible for Obamacare’s subsidies that help Americans lower premium costs of health plans bought on exchanges.
The couple’s problems arose after Larry Drain took early retirement from Social Security last September, The Tennessean reported. The decision altered Linda Drain’s eligibility requirements to receive Supplemental Security Income.
If she stayed married, Linda—who suffers from epilepsy—would lose her SSI benefits and no longer would qualify for the state’s Medicaid program, TennCare. Tennessee was one of 24 states that chose not to follow Obamacare’s expansion for Medicaid programs.
Robert Rector, a leading authority on poverty with the Heritage Foundation, warned in 2010 that the health law had a “pervasive bias” against marriage.
Rector, a senior research fellow at Heritage, said two-earner married couples have their income counted jointly by the government, which leaves them eligible for less in subsidies than couples who are unmarried but cohabitating.
“Married couples are second-class citizens. On the other hand, [Obamacare] establishes cohabiters as a privileged special interest, quietly channeling tens of thousands of dollars to them in preferential government bonuses,” he said.