Andy Shirtliff, a student and waiter, campaigned for health care reform in Montana for years, but the debate became personal this year when he was denied coverage for a pre-existing condition.
He learned that he had early stages of rheumatoid arthritis. When he tried to move his health coverage from his student group plan to a private plan before he graduated from college, he was told his health records gave him an automatic denial. Now he’s taking an extra class at college so he can stay on the University of Montana’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan while he searches for other options.
“Now I really want to help people and I believe this is our moment and we actually have a chance,” he said.
Despite their backing for Mr. Obama, young people were far less likely this summer to attend town-hall meetings, call their congressional representatives or donate money in support of health care.
That comes down to timing and location, said Matthew Singer, founder and chief executive officer of Forward Montana, a political action organization focused on training the next generation of progressive leaders in Montana.
“Who’s free to go to a town-hall meeting at 1 p.m. on a Tuesday? It’s people who have freedom over their schedules; it tends to be professionals who are established or the boss or retirees,” Mr. Singer said.
Campus Progress, an arm of the liberal Center for American Progress, has found that the most reaction comes from people’s stories and shared experiences. In addition to providing information on its Web site and through blogs, it started a journalism project to share health care stories.
Montana Progress also uses humor to reach out to a younger audience. Dressing up in fake surgical smocks, their volunteers approach young people at farmers markets, on college campuses, at popular lunch spots and at sporting events to lobby for health care reform.
It’s not that they don’t take the issue seriously, said Mr. Singer, but this generation relates more to lightheartedness and sarcasm.
“It’s complex and there’s a lot of stuff. We find people open up more with someone who isn’t taking themselves too seriously,” he said. “This is the ‘Daily Show’ generation, the whole bring-some-humor-into-it thing is pretty well accepted by young people.”