PoliGraph: Quist claim on health care law rings true

First District Congressional candidate Allen Quist says the new federal health care law will mean married couples will pay more for insurance.

Quist, who is competing for the chance to unseat DFL Rep. Tim Walz, illustrated his point during a speech at the Le Sueur County Republican Convention on March 10.

Take a 60 year old couple making $60,000 who buys their own insurance, Quist said.

“You will pay $10,425 more for your insurance than if you live together unmarried,” Quist said during the March 10 event.

Quist’s scenario is hypothetical, but it accurately illustrates a wrinkle in the new health care law.

The Evidence

Quist is talking about the new federal mandate that people have insurance. By 2014, those who can’t get affordable coverage from their employer, Medicare or Medicaid can buy insurance through new exchanges set up by the states.

Some people can’t afford pricey health care, so the federal government is offering a tax credit to help them cover the cost. People making between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level are eligible for the credit, and they can either get the money in advance to pay for insurance, or they can pay up front and get reimbursed when filing their income tax return.

Things get tricky, though, if a married couple claims the tax credit, said Robert Field, a health care policy and law expert at Drexel University.

“You would be eligible for a subsidy at a higher income if it’s a joint income, but it wouldn’t be as beneficial as if you were each buying a separate individual policy,” he said.

Quist’s hypothetical example is drawn from a Heritage Foundation report: a 60-year old married couple making $60,000 annually would be at the very top of the eligibility limits and would have to cover nearly all its health care costs.

Whether it costs the couple precisely $10,425 depends on a number of variables. For instance, if that couple had two children at home, they’d still get a sizable tax credit. Government support changes depending on a couple’s age and how much health care costs in their region, too.

It’s worth pointing out that Quist’s underlying point that the bill will discourage marriage is a matter of opinion.

Field says the bill wasn’t designed to keep people from marrying. Married couples who file taxes jointly face the same issue when it comes to other tax credits.

“I strongly doubt that this was intentional,” Field said. “It’s obviously a very complicated law.”

The Verdict

Quist’s numbers may not be precise, but it’s true that under the new law eligible married couples will get less government assistance to pay for health care coverage.

Quist’s claim earns an accurate from PoliGraph.

SOURCES

Allen Quist, speech to Le Sueur County Republican Convention, March 10, 2012

The Kaiser Family Foundation, Questions about Health insurance Subsidies, accessed March 13, 2012

The Kaiser Family Foundation, Health Reform Subsidy Calculator, accessed March 13, 2012

U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee, Uncovering the True Impact of the Obamacare Tax Credits: Increases the Deficit, Expands Welfare through the Tax Code, and Implements a New Marriage Tax Penalty, Oct. 27, 2011

The Heritage Foundation, The New Federal Wedding Tax: How Obamacare Would Dramatically Penalize Marriage, By Robert Rector, January 20, 2010

Phone interview, Allen Quist, March 13, 2012

Phone interview, Robert Field, Drexel University, March 13, 2012

Phone interview, Larry Levitt, The Kaiser Family Foundation, March 14, 2012

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