Til Obamacare do us part? Marriage breaks down under health-care law

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Brendan Bordelon Contributor
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Talk about replacing one ball-and-chain for another.

CBS New York reports that a married Brooklyn couple is considering divorce after discovering they don’t qualify for Obamacare subsidies as a unit.

“After Obamacare was rolled out, we realized that we would save several thousand dollars if we got divorced,” said Nona Willis Aronowitz, who married her husband Aaron Cassara at Manhattan’s City Hall in 2009.

It’s one of the first real-life examples of the “marriage penalty,” the phrase used to describe Obamacare’s misaligned subsidy system. While the health-care law provides subsidies for low-income consumers to purchase insurance, the kickbacks are only slightly larger for a married couple than for individuals.

Investor’s Business Daily notes that two individuals each making $22,980 — double the federal poverty limit on which Obamacare subsidies are based — would earn a combined subsidy of $2,174 per year.

But join the two in the bonds of holy matrimony and that number declines sharply, to just $753.

Aronowitz and Cassara have a slightly different problem. Their combined $62,000 income puts them above the federal poverty line for married couples, making them ineligible for subsidies. But once divorced their incomes would be counted as individuals, allowing them to save hundreds per month on insurance premiums.

“It’s really complicated,” Aronowitz said of Obamacare subsidies. “Go on the website. You’ll see what I mean. I’m an educated, well plugged-in person and I can’t figure it out.”

Aronowitz and Cassara’s romance seems to revolve around health care. The couple married suddenly in 2009, after Cassara lost his job and health insurance.

“It was basically because he needed health insurance, and I had a job that would give that to him,” Aronowitz explained.

The couple plans to stay together and isn’t too worried about reneging on their marital promise, since they never were the “marrying type.” But Aronowitz worries others may agonize over the decision.

“In other people’s cases,” she said, “where marriage is really, really important to them and they had this big wedding and it was this sacred experience, I think it would be a really tough decision for them.”

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