Investigation: Peace Corps health system failing to provide for volunteers

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

In recent years, there has been a steady drumbeat of troubling news about federal support for Peace Corps volunteers, including a GAO report, federal legislation, and even a statement from the Corps’ acting director. Over at FairWarning, Lilly Fowler has worked with former volunteers to organize this steady stream of negative press into a report that the Peace Corps is not providing adequate health coverage to its volunteers, both past and present.

Fowler’s report dives deep into the bureaucracy surrounding the Corps’ treatment of health care claims, but the heart of the matter is quite simple:

Interviews by FairWarning with more than a dozen former Peace Corps personnel – about half of them members of Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, an advocacy group – highlighted the struggles of harmed volunteers. Many failed to gain government-paid medical care when they returned to the U.S. because they couldn’t find doctors registered with FECA. What’s more, they say, claims for medical insurance reimbursements often bog down or are rejected because of bureaucratic bottlenecks and the lack of information provided to volunteers.

There have been many attempts to reform the system in recent years, Fowler finds, but none have led to comprehensive or lasting change.

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