Rep. Todd Akin (R-2nd) reacted to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) with predictable bile. He also tried to dredge up some some stale GOP health care hash, twittering on the eve of its passage:
Did you know that the healthcare bill included a marriage penalty? A married couple making $50,000/yr will have to pay $1,650 more per year for health insurance than an unmarried couple making the same amount.
Although this claim is old news, dating from the first of the year, Akin’s attempt to resurrect the meme indicates, sadly, that we may be hearing it repeated for awhile yet.
The marriage penalty Akin refers to is the mechanism the PPACA uses to structure progressive premiums for the ca. 17 million individuals who are now uninsured and who would be eligible for insurance subsidies through the exchanges. The Wall Street Journal picked up the story from a memo circulated by the GOP, printing two articles that provided a cover of credibility as the story went viral among the wingnutagencia – just google “health care marriage penalty” and you will get a gazillion hits from all the usual suspects.
Nancy Pelosi firmly rejected the contention that this structural inequity comprises a new marriage tax hidden in the Health Care Act, observing that:
…it is a new criticism of how the federal poverty level has been calculated for decades-under Republican and Democratic leadership alike. Under all federal income-related assistance programs, total assistance provided to two single people is greater than the total assistance provided to a married couple for the simple fact that two people living together have lower expenses than two people living separately. (And the federal government assumes that single people are living separately and a married couple is living together.) It is considered good stewardship of tax dollars to reflect actual costs.
So it turns out this myth is really focused on a small subset of Americans who are: 1) unmarried couples who are living together and then decide to get married; and 2) are among the 6 percent of Americans who are using the Exchange because they do not have access to employer-provided insurance or a program such as Medicare and Medicaid and who qualify for affordability credits.
Unfortunately, the WSJ wasn’t as inclined to run with Pelosi’s very clear exposition as they were with the original GOP assertions. Others, such as Igor Volsky of The Wonk Room, however, have noted the beneficial aspects of the scaled subsidies:
In fact, since the majority of the uninsured are not married and marrying lowers uninsurance rates, providing more subsidies to individuals is a better way of targeting affordability credits to those who need them most.
Both Peolosi and Volsky point out that Akin and his GOP cohorts have little moral ground to stand on, since their team’s proposals failed to do anything for the uninsured, married or unmarried. The PPACA, on the other hand, will, as Pelosi put it, actually help married individuals by “allowing coverage under a spouse’s plan, and more affordable rates per person under a family plan than individuals got when they were single.”
Of course, the enumeration of such benefits will no doubt fail to convince some of Akin’s hardcore supporters. Just consider this query and response on Akin’s facebook page:
[Comment 1] Did you know that the healthcare bill forbids insurance companies from denying coverage?
[Comment 2] I didn’t know that, but its another reason to be against the current bill–besides the blatant funding for abortion!
With intellects like these parsing features into bugs and insisting on discredited misinformation, Akin shouldn’t have to lie too strenuously in order to play his role in the ongoing Republican obstructionist soap opera.