Some Resort To Emergency Marriage To Protect Health Insurance


Apr. 15–Very few people will be smashing cakes into the faces of their loved ones this spring.

COVID-19 has brought many couples’ wedding plans, and planned traditions, to a halt. While for some lovebugs, that’s an annoying inconvenience, for others, it poses a nearly life-or-death (or at least financial death) predicament. That’s especially true for people who need to be able to access their spouse’s health insurance.

In early April, the city announced it was making changes to help address those concerns. More than 500 couples applied for “emergency” wedding licenses in the first week they were available,

“I see nine different doctors. For the first six months of a year, I have 25 doctors’ appointments a month, and the next six months, I have up to 10 per month,” says Kirsten Wazalis, 49, of Mayfair, who, pre-coronavirus, was set to get married on April 18. “I have a rare disease so I was counting on having [my partner’s] insurance as soon as possible. To find out that was going to be delayed — well, let me tell you, depression sets in hard.”

Wazalis has Cowden syndrome, a disease that creates tumors throughout her body. In under five years, she battled, and overcame, breast, thyroid, and endometrial cancer. Routinely, she undergoes tests like MRIs and brain scans to make sure she’s tumor-free.

But recently, Wazalis stopped getting the tests. After making a paperwork error when filing for Medicare, she ended up with a lapse in health insurance. She wrote letters every week to try to sort it out, but wasn’t having any success. She and her partner, Glenn Leader, agreed they needed to get Wazalis on Leader’s insurance plan immediately. So they decided to push their wedding date, originally scheduled for August, to April. Soon after, COVID-19 came crashing down on their plans.

“We were just going to do it at City Hall — four days after making the appointment, the city shut down along with the [Register of Wills] office,” says Wazalis. “I didn’t get out of bed. I just cried all day. It just felt like everything was working against us.”

Then, Wazalis received some good news: Philadelphia’s Register of Wills opened up applications for virtual “emergency” marriage licenses. Wazalis applied immediately, along with the hundreds of others.

It became an instant sense of relief knowing that she’ll soon be able to return to her doctor appointments. “I can’t even tell you how much it means to me,” says Wazalis. “We already called Glenn’s union about the insurance. And I already have my genetic specialist on call.”

Wazalis and Leader will wed in their living room, under an arch that Wazalis hand-decorated with ivory cloth. Afterward, they’ll share a dance to Lionel Richie’s My Love. “I always tell him we need more slow dances in the kitchen anyway,” says Wazalis…Read more>>