Last night, I was at dinner with a couple of friends when, after a few glasses of wine, we began to discuss the ways our society might change in everyone had equal access to health care (I'm sorry, this is the sort of thing that happens when you live in D.C. too long). We talked about the pressures of trying to maintain health insurance throughout a series of jobs and freelance stints, how poorly the system is designed and the pressures that maintaining โ€” and affording โ€” coverage or going without can bring to bear on a relationship. This morning, we all woke up to a New York Times article about how the vagaries of the health care system and its obtuse rules in this country can cause people to opt for early marriage or even divorce to balance the need for health insurance. After reading it, Hillarycare starts sounding less like of a dirty word.The major anecdotes cited all revolve around one thing: the unknowable, which is the purpose of insurance. Oh, sure, it's great to have insurance for the Pill and strep throat, but the health crises that sink people and families aren't at that level. The Times article talks about cancer, renal failure and liver failure as being motivating factors for people to consider making marital moves they wouldn't otherwise contemplate (putting off divorce, marrying, and getting divorced, respectively). Other couples moved up their wedding dates or eloped to qualify for insurance or to change insurance plans that became suddenly too expensive for them to bear, even with employers paying a portion of the premium. This is the system that too-little oversight and too-small a safety net has wrought โ€” a system in which health insurance, let alone health care, is a major financial undertaking for some families on a par with buying a house (or not, since many of these people aren't wealthy). Are there Republicans listening? People are getting married and divorced based on their ability to get or maintain health insurance in a system that John McCain says can be fixed with a few individual tax breaks, some increased competition within the current framework and a lot of promotion of things like computers and the "availability" of programs to help you quit smoking. So while my friends and I are contemplating what could be different after the elections because of a significant health care reform, we're not just blowing liberal hot air. We're talking about what major, important life choices that people will be free to make or undertake when they're not stuck wondering whether to pay the insurance bill, the hospital bill or the mortgage this month. That's a freedom of choice too many people lack. Health Benefits Inspire Rush to Marry, or Divorce [NY Times]