As individual and small group health care policy cancellations pour in and HealthCare.gov continues to be a phenomenal embarrassment, Obamacare's apologists, when they're not promoting laughable conspiracy theories about Republican "sabotage," are desperate to find something good to say about it.
On Al Sharpton's MSNBC show Thursday night (HTs to Hot Air, The Blaze and National Review), MSNBC analyst Goldie Taylor tried this "logic": "Health care costs alone are the number one driver of financial distress in this country for families. The number one cause of divorce in this country for families is financial distress." Therefore, because Obamacare is providing affordable health care "for all families," it is saving marriages and keeping families together, and it is hypocritical for Republicans, as the self-described party of families, to oppose it. Too bad for Ms. Taylor that, as will be shown after the jump, Obamacare really discourages marriage while encouraging currently married couples to divorce and shack up — impacts which have been known and almost completely ignored by the establishment press since early 2010.
I'll illustrate by recalling two examples from a column I wrote in late September about Obamacare's "Wedding Tax."
The first is of a married couple with no children where both spouses are 60 years old, earn identical incomes, and do not have access to employer health care coverage. The graph which follows was based on the Kaiser Family Foundation's generic Obamacare subsidy calculator (the calculator has since been customized for each state and county). It shows net annual Obamacare premiums after subsidies:
The graph shows a premium jump of over $10,000 at $62,041 in income, because all subsidies disappear once income reaches four times the poverty level.
As I wrote at the time:
If they have identical earnings totaling $65,000, which will usually net down to $50,000 or below after all income and payroll taxes, their Obamacare exchange Silver Plan premium next year with the same earnings will be $16,382, or about one-third of what used to be their take-home pay. (And they call it the “Affordable Care Act”?)
What can this couple do? Well, they could decide to earn a few thousand dollars less, which will negate the five-figure premium hit. ... But if either spouse’s earnings are unpredictable or hard to precisely track, they could still “mess up” and get socked with a premium they can’t afford.
The “easiest” solution would be to avoid the “wedding tax” entirely by getting divorced while still living together.
... (If they divorce and live together) each cohabiting adult can earn up to $45,960 before Obamacare’s “tax credit”-free premiums kick in. Their annual after-tax savings at age 60 if they shack up and keep their individual earnings between $31,021 and $45,960 will range from $7,650 to over $11,000.
Married couples with children with no access to employer-provided coverage will also often be better off shacking up:
The couple’s annual unsubsidized premium while married is $11,547 (... “tax credits” disappear at $92,401 for married couples with two children). But if they divorce and shack up while giving custody of both children to the lower-earning spouse, their combined annual premiums, at $4,317, will be over $7,200 lower. That’s over $600 a month.
These effects have been known since well before the Affordable Care Act was passed. Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation did the pioneering work in this area in January 2010. Obamacare's opponents failed to adequately leverage Rector's work. Doing so might have prevented the onset of our current national nightmare.
On top of all this, Heritage has shown that Obamacare will not reduce net premiums for most affected individuals and families in the individual and small employer group markets.
Heritage may be understating the impact. For example, while it shows that costs in Ohio under Obamacare will be slightly lower, pre- and post-Obamacare results obtained at EhealthInsurance.com show dramatic pre-subsidy Obamacare increases in 2014 which I believe will not be fully offset overall by the program's subsidies.
MSNBC's Taylor was not telling the truth. Obamacare is already causing financial distress in affected families. It is already encouraging marital breakup. It will cause couples considering marriage to decide against it in favor of cohabitation.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.