Your Stories about Marriage and Health Care

Since 2001, over 850 people like you have sent us stories about how marital status affected their access to health care.

We’ve noticed several recurring themes…

I am a legal assistant for the county’s social services office. I have lived with my partner since 1992 – almost 10 years and have been through numerous “ups and downs” during this time. My partner, being a self-employed blue-collar worker, was forced to apply for medical assistance (at this very office!) to pay for his recent trip to the emergency room. You see, since he couldn’t afford to see a dentist, he waited until he had an abscess in his mouth for about 2 months [until] it was a life and death situation. He is okay, thankfully. Of course, my employer, the County, only offers benefits to spouses – not partners. My coworker got married last year to a man she’s only known for a few months, yet I, in a 10-year relationship, can’t get the same treatment. It is so biased and prejudice it makes me absolutely livid! I should also mention I’ve worked loyally, in the same job for over 8 years. My coworker? She’s been there for under a year and is planning to apply with a higher paying, neighboring county – now that she’s been trained by this county. Does something sound wrong with this picture? – Benicia, 2001

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I’m in a 13 year relationship; my partner’s employer covers our kids but not me. MA mandates health coverage but I don’t qualify for affordable coverage because I’m with him. Our relationship is great, but thinking about getting married is messing us up! I’m 46 years old, I sell clothes on eBay for a living (I was social worker). Now I have chest pains and need coverage, but I can’t afford it! – Sharon, MA, 2007

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When my partner was unemployed I attempted to have him placed on my health insurance. The insurance provider informed me that they will only cover same sex partners not opposite sex partners since we have the option of getting married. – Gisselle, NY 2008

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Antoine and his fiancé both worked at the same company (a major national corporation) and each had their own company health insurance. He took a day off to care for her when she was ill. He was charged for personal time instead of family leave. When he left the company, his last paycheck was docked for that time. She left the company too. – Antoine phoned from TX in 2007

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Cathy and her unmarried partner Lonnie S. live in Georgia. She says they have a common law marriage, but GA does not recognize common law. Cathy worked for the County Sheriff’s office. Lonnie was preparing for a liver transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Florida. To be eligible for the transplant, the clinic said he needed to be accompanied to an appointment by his primary caregiver, Cathy. She was already in a dispute with her employer over whether she had any annual leave available, so she requested personal leave 12 days in advance. She was told 1 day before the appointment that her request was denied. Because the appointment was a prerequisite for the transplant, she accompanied him anyway. When she returned she was terminated. When she applied for unemployment insurance, the employer protested and she was denied that too. She says she had no prior disciplinary record. To support her appeal, the transplant clinic wrote a letter affirming the necessity of her attending the appointment. The appeal is pending, and so is the transplant. – Cathy phoned in 2007

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Insurance for all is real defense of marriage, and affects me personally. I have been on the public dole since 1997 when I had leukemia. If I got married, then my wife’s income would put us over the limit for welfare provided medical insurance, but we still could not afford insurance comparable to my current coverage. – Jim Harris, Progressive Secretary, 2009

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My partner and I [are] not able to marry due to medical insurance obstacles. His ex-wife is an employee of the federal government. Blue Cross Blue Shield… states that if the ex-spouse of a federal employee marries before the age of 55 he/she will lose the insurance coverage. Well, my partner is a diabetic and has been turned down for his own policy. My partner and I are not choosing to cohabitate we are being forced to by his insurance company! [We experience discrimination] from my family. I grew up in a Catholic home and pre-marital cohabitation (sex) is a mortal sin. I don’t believe this. I believe that love and commitment make a relationship not a piece of paper, although I do believe in marriage and would love to get married if we could. – Anonymous UE member in Gulfport, MS, 2006 

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I am 19 years old and believe it or not, I am madly in love and have been for three years now. My fiancé and I have been living together for a year and have been engaged for nine months. We pay our rent, our bills, and even our tuition for college by ourselves. The only thing that is a problem is that we are both still covered under our parents’ health insurance and because of me being sick all the time, we can’t afford to lose health insurance.

We love each other and pledge our ever eternal love to one another. … He always tells me that we’re already married, that in his heart we are married and I feel the same way; however, I want the real deal. I want the certificate, I want his name, and I want to be able to tell the world that we love each other so much that no matter how old we are, we still know what love is. I don’t care about the dress and the guests. All I care about is him and myself looking each other in the eyes and one more time before one another, pledge our love to each another. …

I regret the fact that this world is so materialistic, that two people who have explored every aspect of love and each one of us keeps the other going – like oxygen to living creatures – can’t be married because we don’t have enough money to pay for health insurance. – Anonymous, 2002

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I was the documented health care proxy for my girlfriend, who was terminally ill. I had approved Tylenol for her pain treatment and visited her daily in the hospital. Her parents moved her to a hospice in another state, where she was treated with morphine. When I protested the overmedication, the hospice said I was interfering and his girlfriend’s parents barred me from visiting. She lived two more months with a much lower consciousness, less privacy, and less quality of life. I was too distressed and depressed. I didn’t know how to enforce my rights as her proxy. – Michael D. Hingham, MA, 2008 

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In one of the saddest days of my life… we got married a few years ago. While it was thankfully not an intensive care unit situation, my partner was scheduled to have some procedure that had a good chance of leading to a hospitalization. …Our family doctor warned us. He said everyone in his practice knew us and accepted me as the partner with whom information could be shared and decisions made, but he said that if we got into the health care system (an impersonal hospital) I could be spending all my time showing everyone my paperwork and begging them to tell me what was going on. …So we did it in the lobby of our local hospital. We didn’t tell anyone for quite some time, never told most people the actual date, and we still refuse to acknowledge that date. We use our traditional anniversary – the one we observed for about 20 years – the day we met face to face in 1985. – Sue, NY, 2008

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My sweetie worked for Verisign, and we were both covered by his insurance, as I was considered his ‘domestic partner.’ When he was laid off, Verisign declined to offer COBRA for domestic partners – because by law said they didn’t HAVE to. As a phone contact at the Department of Labor said to my sweetie, what Verisign did was reprehensible… but it was unfortunately also legal. Because we were not married, when one of us lost his job, the other was not covered by COBRA — and the corporation’s HR department pretty much told us because it wasn’t required by law that they cover domestic partners, they had no intention of doing so. – Bob & Collie Collier, Campbell, CA, 2008