Capitol The “Ensuring Coveragefor Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions Act” would prohibitindividual premiums from varying based on health, but allow them tovary based on age, gender, occupation and leisure activities(Photo: Shutterstock)

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Ten Senate Republicans have introduced legislation that wouldreinstate Obamacare rules that prohibit insurers from turning awaypeople with pre-existing conditions if a new lawsuit thatseeks to invalidate the health-care law succeeds.

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The legislation comes two weeks before oral arguments begin onSeptember 5 in Texas v. United States, a Republican-ledlawsuit brought by 20 states, which contends that the 2010health-care law is unconstitutional after Congress neutered the taxpenalty for those who don't comply with its individual mandate to buy coverage.

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Related: How are brokers responding to ACAturmoil?

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In an unusual move, the Trump administration sided with the suing states and declined todefend the federal law in court. That leaves Republicans in adifficult position, just two months before the Nov. 6 congressionalelection, where health care is a top motivating issue for manyvoters, and one in which Democrats enjoy an advantage, according tosurveys.

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An Associated Press-NORC poll released Friday found thatAmericans disapprove by a margin of 36 percent to 64 percent of howTrump is handling the issue of health care.

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The move comes as Democrats hammer Republicans in campaign adsfor their unpopular efforts last year to repeal the Affordable CareAct, possibly further propelling GOP lawmakers to show support forcontinuing certain protections. A Reuters poll in June and Julyfound 84 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of Republicans support“Medicare for All.” Medicare currently is the U.S. health programfor the elderly and disabled.

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The “Ensuring Coverage for Patients with Pre-Existing ConditionsAct” was announced Friday by Senators Thom Tillis of NorthCarolina, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa,Dean Heller of Nevada, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski ofAlaska, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Lindsey Graham or South Carolina, JohnBarrasso of Wyoming, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

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Heller faces a tough re-election in Nevada this fall.

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“Nevadans and Americans throughout the country with pre-existingconditions should be protected – period,” Heller said in astatement. “This legislation will make sure that Nevada's mostvulnerable have access to coverage, and I'm proud to join mycolleagues to introduce it.”

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Stewart Boss, a spokesman for Heller's Democratic opponent JackyRosen, responded by calling it a “weak” and “panicked” move fromthe senator, noting that he has supported his party's proposals torepeal the Affordable Care Act.

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Larry Levitt, the senior vice president for health reform at thenonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, said the legislation includesloopholes that would make preexisting condition coverage lessrobust than it is under existing law.

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“It prohibits individual premiums from varying based on health,but allows them to vary based on age, gender, occupation, andleisure activities. It would allow premium variation based onhealth in the small business market,” Levitt said in an e-mail.“The big loophole is that it would allow pre-existing conditionexclusions, which were common in individual market plans before theACA.”

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“An insurer would have to give you insurance if you have apre-existing condition, but it could exclude any servicesassociated with your pre-existing condition,” he said. “This wouldmake protections for people with pre-existing conditions a bit of amirage.”

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— With assistance by Anna Edney

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Copyright 2018 Bloomberg. All rightsreserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten,or redistributed.

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