The Campaign Spot

AmeriCorps’ Insurance Doesn’t Meet Obamacare Standards

Remember the volunteer firehouses that are still waiting to learn whether they’re legally obligated to provide insurance to their volunteers, or face federal fines under Obamacare?

The IRS declined to comment and referred the Tribune-Review to the Treasury Department, which is writing final regulations for the law’s employer mandate. In a written statement, the department said it is aware of the concerns of volunteer fire companies but declined to comment further.

Here’s another volunteer group suddenly finding themselves with a similar, significant problem for all of their volunteers:

The Obama administration has told Vista volunteers and other AmeriCorps workers that their government-provided health coverage does not measure up to the standards of the new health care law, and that they may be subject to financial penalties unless they obtain insurance elsewhere . . . 

Abby Grosslein, a Vista member in New Orleans, said she thought it was strange that the health benefits provided by a federal agency did not meet the standards of a law adopted more than three and a half years ago. “It would be nice if the government waived the penalty because we are a federally funded program,” said Ms. Grosslein, 24, who is completing her third year of service with AmeriCorps. “It’s as if the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.”

Moreover, she said: “The Affordable Care Act has been on the books since 2010. Why are we hearing only now that our health plan is not compliant?”

. . . Rick Christman of Lexington, Ky., a former member of the board of AmeriCorps’ parent organization, the Corporation for National and Community Service, said no one expected that Vista workers would be subject to penalties because their health coverage was inadequate.

“It’s unfortunate,” Mr. Christman said.

Obamacare is establishing a giant disincentive to volunteer work and volunteer organizations, as every organization suddenly realizes it can’t accept more than 30 hours of volunteer work from more than 50 workers without being on the hook for health insurance for the volunteers, or paying $2,000 per “employee” even though workers are volunteers. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that employers this year were paying $5,900 on average to provide health insurance for a single worker, and $16,000 for family coverage. Most volunteer and charitable organizations do not have that kind of cash lying around; providing coverage to the volunteers and covering those costs will mean diverting massive amounts of cash away from the charitable organization’s mission.

This is separate from the new regulations on charity and nonprofit hospitals.

Finally, Americans have a law cracking down on the menaces of AmeriCorps, volunteer firehouses, and charity hospitals.


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