AmeriCorps workers and Vista volunteers were told just this month that their health care plans don't measure up to the Affordable Care Act's standards—which is pretty ironic, given that the plans are provided by the federal government. "It's as if the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing," one Vista member in New Orleans tells the New York Times. What's more, AmeriCorps won't improve its coverage (which doesn't cover pre-existing conditions), meaning members will either have to buy better insurance on their own, or pay a penalty.
AmeriCorps can get away with that because its workers are technically volunteers, not employees. Officials added that many Vista members might get a mandate waiver because their incomes are so low—they receive only a small allowance to pay for food, housing, and basic necessities—and that those under 26 can stay on their parents' plans. "I really support the Affordable Care Act," says one Vista member, "But it was surprising and frustrating," especially because they were told in August that "we did not need to worry." Other members point out that some AmeriCorps workers perform dangerous jobs, like battling wildfires and doing trail-work on mountains.