Tomorrow, January 1, marks another embarrassment for the federal government’s endlessly controversial AmeriCorps program. But misery loves company, and so the same embarrassment also adds one more “oops” to the mountainous pile of Obamacare embarrassments.
AmeriCorps, you’ll recall, is a federal program created by President Clinton in 1993, which drew criticism for its idea of paying “volunteers” to work at nonprofits. It's had numerous scandals over the years, such as the time when President Obama fired the agency’s Inspector General after the I.G. investigated Sacramento Mayor (and major Obama supporter) Kevin Johnson. (Johnson and a school he helped run eventually settled with AmeriCorps by agreeing to repay $424,000 in federal funds.)
In an earlier scandal, my Capital Research Center colleague Robert Huberty criticized AmeriCorps’ entanglement with the radical activists at the ACORN network, which eventually went bankrupt.
Now as 2014 dawns, we have the spectacle of AmeriCorps “members” becoming liable to the Obamacare law’s penalties for individuals who fail to have up-to-snuff health insurance. Why are AmeriCorps' semi-volunteers in trouble? Because the health plans provided by their federal employer don’t meet the feds’ own law.
I swear I learned this from the New York Times, not from a Jay Leno monologue.
Needless to say, the young people involved didn’t realize joining a federal program would bring federal punishments, and they feel betrayed. Sarah Sklaw, a 22-year-old Vista member from New York City, says AmeriCorps’ parent agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service, repeated the Lie of the Year, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” Sklaw told the Times:
I really support the Affordable Care Act, and I don’t want to be a naysayer. But it was surprising and frustrating to be told that our health coverage would not meet the law’s standards, especially because the Corporation for National and Community Service told us at orientation in August that we did not need to worry about the issue.
Another AmeriCorps member, Abby Grosslein -- who is pictured in the Times posing under her BarackObama.com FORWARD! poster -- has also learned a valuable lesson on the nature of government:
“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.”
FOOTNOTE: The penalty facing AmeriCorps members and other individuals who haven’t bought enough insurance to satisfy the federal government is, of course, now in a Twilight Zone, thanks to the President’s “secretive and lawless” alterations to this and many other provisions of his signature law. For an excellent update on the individual mandate issue, see Yuval Levin’s “Pounding on the Panic Button.”