Alternative Dispute Resolution

Facing loss of health coverage, 2 lawyers turn to 'Problem Solver' for help proving their marriage

Philip and Nancy Hablutzel have been married for more than three decades. When required to prove that they are still husband and wife by an administrator for a state health insurance system, however, the two Illinois lawyers found themselves stymied.

Nancy Hablutzel, a state retiree, operates her own law firm and Philip Hablutzel is law professor and director of the Illinois Institute of Business Law at Chicago-Kent College of Law, according to bar directory listings. But these stellar credentials didn’t help them persuade an auditor hired by the the state’s Department of Central Management Services to weed out fraud that they are, in fact, married. So they turned to the Chicago Tribune’s Problem Solver column for help.

Like others before them, they found the apparent power of publicity led to a swift solution. After a call by the Problem Solver to the Department of Central Management on Monday, the auditor, HMS Employer Solutions, dropped its previous no-exceptions requirement that the couple provide a government transcript of their 2012 federal tax return by Monday afternoon. (The couple filed on time, but the partial government shutdown this year slowed down the standard processing period.)

The auditor also accepted the proof they had previously provided, including a transcript of their 2011 tax return, a copy of their 2012 tax return, joint bank statements and a copy of their condominium assessment bill, among other documents. (At one point, a frustrated Nancy Hablutzel had jokingly suggested that she could send photos of the couple in bed.)

The state also announced Monday that the deadline to provide copies of tax transcripts for 2012 is being extended until Jan. 31 for all couples, not just the Hablutzels, the newspaper reports.

Thrilled by the swift resolution, Nancy Hablutzel now looks forward to turning her legal skills to other matters. “I still like the guy; I’m not going to divorce him,” she said of her husband. “I’m sitting there thinking, we are two competent lawyers and we can’t get them to understand.”

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