Doctor's office While theprevalence of pre-existing conditions varies between states,outhern states tended to have more people with pre-existingconditions. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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More than one in four Americans—54 million people—could losehealth insurance due to pre-existing conditions, without theprotections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That analysis comesfrom a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

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The report is an update of a 2016 analysis which found that 27percent of American adults under 65, at that time equaling 52million people, would not qualify for insurance under pre-existingcondition exclusions prior to the ACA. The percentage today remains27 percent, based on data about pre-existing conditions drawn fromthe National Health Interview Survey.

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Related: How do those with ACA insurance feel about itsfuture?

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The KFF researchers say nearly half of American families—45percent—have at least one nonelderly adult member with apre-existing health condition that would have affected theirinsurance coverage before passage of the ACA.

Threat from Texas vs. Azar case

The new analysis was conducted as the Fifth Circuit Court ofAppeals weighs a decision in the Texas v. Azar case, which was brought by 20Republican state officials and joined by the Trump Administration.That suit which seeks to overturn the ACA in its entirety,including provisions that prohibit insurers from denying coverageor charging more to people with pre-existing conditions.

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The case is likely to go to the Supreme Court, which hasrebuffed earlier efforts to dismantle the ACA. However, with a moreconservative Court now in place due to the appointments byPresident Trump, the outcome of the case is difficult topredict.

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The study notes that since the ACA went fully into effect in2014, Americans with pre-existing health conditions have beenprotected from being excluded from health coverage or paying higherpremiums because of pre-existing conditions.

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"Before the ACA protections took effect in 2014, privateinsurers in the individual market could use applicants' healthstatus, history and other risk factors to determine whether andunder what terms to issue coverage," the report noted. "Someconditions that could lead to automatic denials of coverage at thetime include cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, andpregnancy."

Red states will be hit harder

One interesting finding of the KFF analysis is that southernstates, which historically have tended to have vote Republican, arelikely to have more people affected. The researchers found that therates for pre-existing conditions that would have affectedinsurance coverage pre-ACA vary from state to state. However,southern states tended to have more people with pre-existingconditions.

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"On the low end, in Colorado, at least 22 percent of non-elderlyadults have conditions that would likely be declinable if they wereto seek coverage in the individual market under pre-ACAunderwriting practices," the study said. "Rates are higher in otherstates – particularly in the South – such as Arkansas (34 percent),Kentucky (34 percent), Mississippi (34 percent), and West Virginia(37 percent), where at least a third of the non-elderly populationwould have declinable conditions."

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The KFF report warns that regardless of state, the impact ofoverturning the ACA would be felt widely throughout the country."The [ACA] assures people access to individual market coverage withcomprehensive benefits through a variety of changes in their workand life circumstances. This could change quite quickly if the ACAmarket protections for people with pre-existing conditions wereinvalidated," the report says. "Over a quarter of nonelderly adultshave a health condition that would jeopardize their access tonon-group coverage without the ACA market protections, potentiallyaffecting almost one-half of non-elderly families in thecountry."

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