Health Insurance Quotes

Find Affordable Health Insurance Now

Yes No
Yes No

Polygamists surrounded by insurance challenges

Known for their religious devotion, polygamist families often trust that God will provide for their needs. This practice may lead them to disregard the importance of insurance, says John Llewellyn, a former Utah polygamist who has written extensively on the subject.

polygamyTypically, polygamist men in the United States have one "legal" wife who is openly acknowledged and several "plural" wives who are not. Their wives and children may live under one roof or in several homes. Although polygamy is illegal, these families follow a religious doctrine that accepts and encourages multiple wives.  Such beliefs often stem from the early teachings of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But while polygamy is part of the church's history, its leaders long have rejected the practice.

As shown on the TLC reality program "Sister Wives" and dramatized on HBO’s “Big Love,” families with multiple spouses and many children must navigate a world of complex personal relationships and serious financial obligations. Among those challenges is obtaining adequate auto, home, life and health insurance for many family members.

Health insurance when there’s only one “legal” family

Llewellyn says that finding affordable health insurance is a common problem. The retired law enforcement officer says many polygamists use employer-provided health insurance to cover their "legal" wife and her children. Some add children by their plural wives to their health plans as “dependents,” but others fear that acknowledging a large number of dependents will signal that they are polygamists.

If a man is discovered to be a polygamist, "that can be a felony and he can lose his job," says Anne Wilde of Utah, a former plural wife and co-founder of Principle Voices, an educational advocacy group for polygamist women. In many cases, plural wives take jobs outside the home and use their employee benefits to acquire affordable insurance for themselves and their children.

Although Wilde always has carried car insurance, she often has done without health insurance. "I just ran the risk of no insurance," she says. "Luckily I did not need it. I have always been blessed with good health and I have had a lot of faith in the Lord."

Some polygamists rely heavily on emergency rooms and social service programs to take the place of health insurance. "They will seek help from different welfare programs," Llewellyn says. "A lot of them will accept that resource because it doesn't cost them anything."

Difficult to add all wives to life insurance

The amount of life insurance needed to cover multiple families can be staggering, and in order to be properly insured, all “spouses” need coverage in order to provide funds in the event of their deaths. Marty Levy, an independent life insurance broker in Los Angeles, says it is important for people with large families to set up life insurance trusts that will be administered responsibly in the event of their death.

Coverage could be purchased through one very large policy or several policies. While it is not impossible, it is very difficult to add "spiritual wives" as beneficiaries to life insurance policies, adds Levy. To do so, you must demonstrate that the women have an "insurable interest" in the policyholder. "It's tough to underwrite, but it can be done."

Confronting car insurance rates for multiple drivers

Auto insurance policies stipulate which household members are covered, and trying to insure a large number of drivers – especially teenagers – can make a policy prohibitively expensive. After reviewing car insurance rates, some polygamist families decide to leave their driving-age children off their policies.

When Llewellyn's children reached driving age, he told them they were on their own when it came to car insurance. "Auto insurance can take a healthy swath out of your income, especially if you have kids," he observes. "As they got older, they had jobs and were able to pay for their own insurance."

Home insurance rates expand

When it comes to home insurance, the sheer size of a family will generally increase the cost of the policy, regardless of other factors. Pete Moraga, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California, says home insurance companies typically require an applicant to list all persons who are residents of the home. Each resident you add increases the risk that damage may occur to the dwelling, he explains, which increases the rate.

If a polygamist family has several homes, insurance companies typically will require separate home insurance policies for each dwelling, Moraga says. However, if the family has created a compound by building several dwellings on a single lot, a single home insurance policy may suffice.

When affordable insurance is out of reach

Polygamist families cannot always afford to purchase enough auto, home, life and health insurance to provide meaningful protection. That is where faith comes in, says Wilde. Many polygamists firmly believe that God ultimately will take care of them. When it comes to insurance for polygamist families, "every situation is different," she says. "There is no recipe book on this."

Ready to get a quote?

Get quick and easy health insurance quotes

Yes No