U.S. President Barack Obama took his campaign for health care reform to a major university near Washington, D.C. on Thursday. The president is seeking to energize young voters.
Young people were among Mr. Obama's most enthusiastic supporters during last year's presidential campaign. But they have been largely apathetic during the health care debate, because many students receive health insurance through their parents or schools.
At a rally in a packed basketball arena at the University of Maryland, President Obama told students that health care reform is their issue too. He called it the "defining struggle of this generation." "Every day, one-in-three young adults who do not have health insurance lives one accident or one illness away from bankruptcy," he said.
The president was introduced by Rachel Peck, a 20-year-old University of Maryland student who has thyroid cancer. She is covered by her parents' health insurance, but she says she probably will have difficulty getting her own coverage after she graduates. "What will happen to me then? What happens if my cancer returns and I cannot pay for radiation? What happens to thousands of families across the nation who lose their health insurance because a family member has a disease like mine?," he said.
Mr. Obama said there is a moral to Peck's story. "She is okay right now; she is thriving. But when she goes into the workforce and their insurance companies start asking, 'Have you been sick before?', right now she would have trouble getting insurance. Under the bill that we will sign, she will still be able to get coverage," he said.
The president said lawmakers must resist scare tactics and false accusations, and reform the system.
Mr. Obama's plan has encountered stiff opposition, but he said it is supported by what he called an "unprecedented coalition" of hospitals, doctors, nurses and drug companies.
"Some of the people who are most enthusiastic about health care reform are the very medical professionals who have first-hand knowledge about how badly the system needs to change," he said.
Democratic Senator Max Baucus, who heads the Senate Finance Committee, has introduced a bill which would reduce medical costs and require almost all Americans to have health insurance. His committee could vote to move the bill to the full Senate for debate as early as next week, but the legislation faces many hurdles on Capitol Hill.