I confess. Despite the fact that my longtime beau and I haven't felt the need to say "I do," I've fantasized about getting hitched solely for the health insurance.
As a self-employed person, I spend thousands of dollars a year on insurance premiums, co-payments and other out-of-pocket health care costs. My boyfriend, on the other hand, works for a deep-pocketed megacorp that offers not just the Cadillac of health benefits but the tricked-out stretch limo: No matter how many prescriptions he fills, doctors he sees or trips to the hospital he makes, it won't cost him a dime.
I wouldn't be the first working stiff to entertain the notion of exchanging nuptials to get better health coverage. In April, a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a leading health policy research group, found that in the past year 7 percent of U.S. adults married so one or the other could get on a partner's health insurance plan.
But just who are those 7 percent who promised to love, honor and, yes, even insure a significant other they may not have otherwise married just yet, if ever? What finally convinced them to take the connubial plunge? And what's their employment situation anyway? Let's take a look:
"I was missing all my teeth on my upper jaw," said Jeff Heisler, a 38-year-old hotel chef, about the condition of his kisser two months before the date he was scheduled to wed his then-fiance, Jennifer, a 35-year-old nurse.
A collision with the handle of a freezer door at work had left him with 17 broken, decaying teeth, a world of oral hurt and a stack of wedding engagement photos in which he hadn't cracked a smile. Jeff's job didn't offer dental insurance (ironically, he couldn't bite into half the dishes he'd been hired to cook). And the Westerville, Ohio, couple couldn't afford the $6,000 needed to extract Jeff's damaged teeth and buy him a full upper denture plate.
Their solution? The couple had a justice of the peace marry them 51 days early -- unbeknownst to their families -- so Jeff could get the dental insurance offered by Jennifer's hospital job.
"I couldn't bear to watch him live in pain for any longer," Jennifer said. "My insurance paid 80 percent of the procedure and 90 percent of the anesthesia."
As a bonus, "In our wedding photos, all you see is bright, shiny, smiley white teeth," Jeff said.
After living together in unwedded bliss for three decades, Alison Johnson, 47, and Justus Addiss, 50, decided last year to make it legal.
"The primary driving force was the cost of health insurance," said Johnson, who works for herself as a consultant to nonprofit coalitions. "I was spending $679 per month for health insurance, when I could pay less than $1,000 per year by being on my partner's plan. The cold, hard reality of all that money going out the door each month was just too much."
Curiously, Johnson's partner, an IT professional, works for a company that offers health insurance to same-sex domestic partners but not to unmarried partners of the opposite sex. So without any fanfare, the Middletown, Conn., marriage holdouts took the plunge.
"With over 1,000 laws giving married couples rights that unmarried couples don't have, it's hard to stay unmarried," said Addiss, "especially as we age."