Feb 4, 2010

If Democrats Don't Pass Health Reform, Will They Lose Younger Voters?

As a new article in Newsweek points out, young Americans are the least likely to be insured. And no, not because they're lazy or don't want to pay:
Young Americans are uniquely affected by the nation's broken health-care system. The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that aims to improve health care, found in a report released in December that nearly half of all young adults between 19 and 29 said they were uninsured at some time during the past year. Because this age range brings with it a number of transition points that can lead to coverage being cut off—high school and college graduation, and early internships or jobs that don't provide coverage—it's a decade fraught with peril.

Given the weakness in the economy, says Sara Collins, co-author of the report, young adults looking for insurance through their employers face an uphill battle. If the economy gets worse, so too will the health-care outlook for young Americans.

So it's no surprise that young Americans are more in favor of comprehensive health care reform than any other age group. From the article:

...even after months of demonization, including countless falsehoods about government takeovers and "death panels," young people remain the group that supports health-care reform at the highest rates. When the Commonwealth Fund asked young respondents whether it was important for Congress and the president to improve the health-care system, 88 percent said yes.

Now if Congress lets down young people on health care, will young people turn away from political involvement? If one of the most important issues to young Americans is allowed to wither and die, what will young people think of the politicians they voted for, the ones who promised that this time would be different? From the Newsweek piece:
If the Democrats drop health care, there will be an entire generation of young voters unable to point to a single major legislative accomplishment from the party during their lifetime. And as far they will be concerned, when it came time for the Democrats to act on an issue that was particularly important to them, they folded.
Democrats worried about their re-election campaigns this fall should be very concerned about this. Young people are a crucial part of their base, and were instrumental in Obama's electoral success. If they turn away from the Democrats or from politics, much like my generation did after the promises President Clinton made turned to dust, it will be the party's loss most of all. So Congress should pass health care reform--if not for the country, if not for all the uninsured or under-insured Americans outthere--to at least keep alive the hope, activism, and civic-mindedness of our nation's youngest voters. After all, corny as it sounds, they are America's future. Let's keep them healthy, happy, and politically engaged.

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