Dear Wendy: “Should I Marry For Health Insurance?”

I was laid off about a year and a half ago and have been without health care since that time. For the most part, that’s OK because I am not sick often. I do, however, have adult ADHD and it is incredibly difficult to function or keep myself organized without my medication. I also have continuous problems with UTIs and am now having pain in my kidneys. I’ve done mass quantities of research and every option is either out of my price range or literally will take days of waiting in different lines and being screened by social workers before I am even able to see a doctor (for the UTI). The ADHD actually requires going to another city where my college doctor is, convincing him to see me for free and then write me a prescription which I then send to a specific pharmaceutical company who will decide if I am deserving of free medication. There is one other option that could possibly work, but it is one that makes me very sad. I could secretly wed my fiancé and then get on his health insurance. We are supposed to be married in about a year, but if we went to a court we could be married as soon as this weekend. The whole idea of that breaks my heart; I love him so much that I don’t want to hide being married to him. I also don’t want to get married without our families there. I am so conflicted. Should I just suck it up and spend the days and the miles running around trying to get the help I need or secretly wed my husband-to-be and make it easy to see a doctor? — In Sickness and In Health

This is one of those questions where there is no answer that is more “right” or more justified or more moral than the other. Only you — and your fiancé — can decide what is best for you and which outcome is going to be easiest for you to live with. What I can do is help provide a little perspective, and what I’m hearing you say is that marrying your fiancé secretly would break your heart, while the inconvenience of getting health coverage without insurance would continue to be, well, inconvenient. It seems that heartbreak is a heavier burden to bear than inconvenience, right?

But, what if you didn’t marry your fiancé secretly? What if you invited your immediate family members to witness a small, simple legal ceremony — at the courthouse or something similar — and continued planning a wedding for next year where you can celebrate your union with all your family and friends in a grander fashion? This couple did just that last year when the wife-to-be was suddenly laid off and found herself without health insurance. They had 36 hours to plan a quickie wedding, and were lucky enough to have their parents there and go on a mini-honeymoon. And I suspect when they had their formal wedding later in the year, it wasn’t any less meaningful. Maybe it was even more meaningful. After all, not only did they have a better idea what they were getting into with a little head start, they’d already gracefully weathered one sudden storm together and lived to tell about it.

If it still breaks your heart a little to think of tying the knot without the pomp and circumstance you’ve imagined — even if you’ll get to experience that eventually — you have to decide if the broken heart is worth the inconvenience of a few days of waiting in line. You also have to consider the possibility that you may be turned down for your medications — that your college doctor won’t see you for free and/or the pharmaceutical company may decide you aren’t “deserving” of free medication. If your financial situation is such that you’d really have to go without your meds in that case, would it still be worth holding off on marriage until your official wedding day? Like I said, only you can answer these questions for yourself. You have to decide how much your heart really would break if you married your fiancé in a quickie ceremony right away without all your friends and family present and whether that broken heart would be a heavier or lighter burden to carry than the inconvenience — and potential rejection — you’d experience in your chase for free/affordable health care and medication.

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