Speaking in College Park to the University of Maryland, the President saw some of the same passion for change that consumed much of the country for the years leading up to his election.
Make no mistake, health insurance reform is something every young person should care about for themselves. As HealthReform.gov detailed in a new report this morning, young people entering the workforce are more and more getting the short end of the health insurance stick. We also launched a Facebook version of our "What’s In Reform for You?" quiz, which is guaranteed to surprise you no matter how young or old you are.
But there was no question that this audience of young people, hungry for that change, understood the moral dimension, and even the historical dimension, as well if not better than anybody.
The President opened talking about the young woman who introduced him, who had undergone amazingly trying times dealing with cancer:
I'm sure that some of you wondered why this college required that all new students have health insurance this semester. Well, here's why. Here's why. Every day, the one in three adults -- one in three young adults who don't have health insurance live one accident or one illness away from bankruptcy. Think about what would have happened with Rachel if she hadn’t had health insurance. Nearly half of these young people have trouble paying their medical bills. Nearly 40 percent are in debt because of them. I mean, think about adding the debt you already have for college -- on top of that, another $10,000 or $20,000 or $30,000 or $50,000 worth of debt because you get sick.
Some of these Americans don’t get insurance because they feel young and healthy. But some work part-time or for small businesses, where you aren’t offered health insurance. And it’s just too expensive to buy coverage on your own.
Even if you have coverage, insurance companies today, they can drop it or water it down when you’re sick and you need it the most. Or they can decide that they won’t pay the full cost of your care and make you pay the rest of it out of pocket, even if it’s thousands upon thousands of dollars. That’s why more than one-third of all young adults -- including those with insurance – have had trouble paying their medical bills. That's why one-fourth of all young adults are paying off medical debt.
And we’ve heard some horror stories during the course of this debate. There’s the young father I met in Colorado -- his child was diagnosed with severe hemophilia the day after he was born. And they had insurance, but because there was a cap on their coverage, as one child’s medical bills piled up, this father was left frantically to search for another option, or face tens of thousands of dollars of debt. (Audience interruption.)
Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer -- (audience interruption.) What's going on, guys? We're doing okay. Relax. Everybody is all right. We're doing fine. (Applause.)
I want everybody to understand this. You had a young woman who was diagnosed with cancer, but because she had a case of acne that the insurance company said hadn’t been declared, they decided they wouldn't cover her. By the time her insurance was reinstated, her breast cancer had more than doubled in size. The
Now, these stories are heartbreaking; they are wrong. Nobody in America should be treated that way. And we are going to bring about change this year. (Applause.)
Now, at its core -- listen up. At its core, that’s what this issue is about. Health care is about more than the details of a policy. It’s about what kind of country you want to be. Young people, it's about what kind of country you want to be. We are the only nation on Earth that leaves millions of people without health insurance. We spend more than any country on Earth, and we're not any healthier for it. So this is about what kind of country you want your children to grow up in.
A lot of you here today and a lot of young people across the country gave your time and your effort to this campaign because you believed that America can still do great things. (Applause.) You believed that in this country, we don't fear the future; we shape the future. (Applause.) We don't feed on division and anger; we feed on hope and possibility. That's what America is about. (Applause.) that's what we're called to affirm right now.