To Have and to Insure: The Relationship between Health Insurance Coverage and Marriage Formation among Cohabitors

Tara L. Becker, University of California, Los Angeles

Legal marriage confers a host of social, economic, and legal benefits that may serve as an incentive to marry. Not least among these is access to health insurance through dependent coverage. When one partner lacks health insurance coverage, couples may decide to marry in order to reduce medical costs and ensure that partner has access to medical care. Using a sample of cohabiting individuals ages 18-49 from the 1999-2008 panels of the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey – Household Component, I use survival analysis to determine whether there is a relationship between health insurance coverage and marriage formation. Preliminary results suggest that health insurance coverage is positively related to marriage, but only for private coverage that can be expanded to the uncovered partner through marriage. The implications of these findings for families and how they might be affected by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 will be discussed.

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Presented in Session 230: Marriage and Family in a Legal Context