Posted this in my Peace Corps blog, but thought it was relevant enough to have a spot here, as well.
I was just talking to Lynn, another RPCV Vanuatu, and our conversation took a course that reminded me how much I wanted to write a post about AfterCorps before my memory of my experience with it dimmed.
AfterCorps is the health insurance policy that Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are covered by for one month following their COS date. Optionally, an RPCV can purchase up to two additional months of the same coverage if they so choose. The price per month at the time I COSed was $238.72, but Peace Corps Vanuatu was still passing out literature that listed the price as around $150-big difference. The reason that RPCVs can only receive three months of this coverage is because the plan does not meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). This is interesting, because technically, if you were not dropped from a plan that DOES meet the ACA standards, or did not have another qualifying life event (usually just a change in family status, employment status/income, or moving to a different state), you are NOT eligible to apply for coverage through the Marketplace (healthcare.gov) except during open enrollment (November 15-December 15).
I did all kinds of research when I came home, and especially after I came home from SE Asia (the crazy paralysis and neurological symptoms kinda cemented my already pretty solid desire for health insurance). I even wrote long, informed letters to my Senator, Congressman, and of course, the White House. What can I say, when I am inspired or impassioned by something, I write letters. It could be the new yogurt flavor from Fage, it could be immigration legislation, or in this case, our truly uninspired healthcare system. It’s what I do!
So back to AfterCorps. If you’re under 26, and especially if you’re going to be under 26 for a while, take what I’m saying with a grain of salt-you are in a much better situation than most, and are eligible to be covered under your parents’ employer sponsored health plan, yay! If you are not under 26, but live in a state that expanded Medicaid (28, at last count), you are probably eligible for Medicaid coverage. If you live in Virginia (apparently, one of the strictest states in the country with regard to Medicaid and its’ eligibles) or the rest of the Southeast (from VA to TX, and then right up the the middle of the country to SD, with a few rebels thrown in for good measure), Medicaid expansion is not happening. Curious, since the federal government agreed to pay 100% of Medicaid expansion costs through 2016 and 90% in the year 2020 and beyond. The basic rules for Medicaid eligibility in Virginia beyond low income are being a child, a parent, pregnant, disabled or elderly. Pretty straightforward, if not exclusionary.
Ok, so that wasn’t really back to AfterCorps, more like “what you’re eligible for”. Now, back to AfterCorps. Even if you live in a state without Medicaid expansion, or are otherwise ineligible, and are too old to enroll in your parents’ health plan, purchasing a plan through the Marketplace is likely still a better option. While you may pay slightly more (or slightly less, depending on what kind of coverage you choose), better and more complete coverage is available. Plus, if you have to complete any 127-C forms (if you don’t, God bless you, and I envy you!) or COS medical stateside, you will be very, very tired of dealing with and frustrated by the AfterCorps/Seven Corners system and staff. The lack of communication between their staff, having to send in receipts and invoices multiple times, and being told wildly varying information in response to important coverage questions, resulting in unwanted bills, while trying to reacclimate, stuff your face with lots of delicious American snack food, and see everyone you’ve known your whole life in the month following your return will get old fast.
Just my two cents. I read a few other blog posts about the worthlessness of AfterCorps, but none of them really spelled out any options (which, let’s be honest, at a certain stage, you just want someone to figure it out for you and have it be right!), and even if they did, the healthcare landscape in the US has changed dramatically just during the last couple of years (i.e. my service), so what little information out there may well be out of date.
Headed down off my soapbox now, but rest assured that I read the bejesus out of every Peace Corps manual, directive, and any literature out there, as well as becoming all too well versed on the new changes that the ACA brought, so if there’s any way I can help, shoot me an email. I may not be up on my current events, by by golly, I know my COS/ACA/PC stuff!