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Obama Aims to Rally Young Adults for Health Care Reform

BY Lea Winerman  September 17, 2009 at 2:39 PM EDT

Pres. Obama speaks at the University of Maryland, College Park; Getty Images

Calling health insurance reform the “defining struggle of this generation,” the president aimed to rally young people to support the cause. Young adults are among the least likely people to have health insurance –more than 10 million people between ages 19 to 26 don’t have health insurance. They will be an important constituency in any reform plan, because increasing the participation of healthy young people in health insurance plans could help lower costs for everyone else.

Listen to the full speech here:

“When you’re young, I know this isn’t always an issue that you have at the top of your mind. You think you’re invincible. That’s how I thought,” Obama said.

He said that under new health care legislation, young people will be able to stay on their parents insurance longer, until age 26. He also reiterated points he made in a recent speech to Congress — that health care reform will make it impossible for insurers to drop coverage for people who become sick, that reducing waste and abuse in the medical system will help pay for reform, and that he wants to “explore the option” of medical malpractice reform, among other points.

“The good news is, we are now closer to reform than we have ever been,” he said.

Attendees began lining up at 6 am to get into the packed rally. The overwhelmingly supportive crowd chanted “yes we can” and “health care now” throughout the speech. A few protestors, however, gathered outside. University of Maryland student Samantha Bennett, 20, stood outside with a sign that read “UMD students against nationalized healthcare.”

“”This is really a university that has a liberal viewpoint, so we wanted to come out and present the minority view of conservatives,” she told the Washington Post.