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What young people don’t know about health care reform

The Boston Globe, Oct. 27, 2010

WASHINGTON – Earlier today, for a story I’m working on about the youth vote, the election, and the Stewart/Colbert rally, I met with Ari Matusiak, chairman and co-founder of Young Invincibles, a group that advocates for health care reform on behalf of 18-34-year-olds, in part by encouraging them to publicly share their health care travails.

Matusiak had just come from the White House, where he had attended a meeting about the endlessly complicated process of implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He had an infuriating tendency to respond to my questions with nuance and thoughtfulness rather than with the grabby, sweepingly general quotes that are the fast food of journalism.

But when I asked Matusiak whether or not young people were sufficiently informed about the bill and its impact on them (for one thing, if their parents have health insurance they can now stay on those plans until they are 26), his answer was quick and definitive.

“No, absolutely not.” He said. “That’s one of the things that is, from my vantage point, one of the most important things that has to happen over the next couple years in terms of health care reform. Because the young adults are the largest group of uninsured in the country. They represent the largest percentage of uninsured in the country. And that means that a lot of them are going to be coming into the insurance market for the first time. They don’t necessarily know what’s available to them, they don’t know how to be insurance consumers.”This obviously has potentially severe real-world ramifications if people aren’t aware of the health care options available to them, they could end up making expensive mistakes. But it’s also a potent political concern, particularly given the fact that we are approaching an election in which young people (not to mention plenty of other groups) are expected to mostly stay home

It’s not a cut-and-dry case, but there’s certainly an argument to be made that if young people were more informed about health care reform, they would be more likely to vote next Tuesday.