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Up to Half in U.S. Have Pre-Existing Conditions: Study

WASHINGTON - As many as 129 million Americans under age 65 have medical problems putting them at risk of being rejected by insurance companies or having to pay more for coverage, according to a U.S. government study reported by the Washington Post on Tuesday.

The Department of Health and Human Services is scheduled to release the study on Tuesday, the Post said, the same day the House of Representatives is expected to begin considering a Republican bill to repeal President Barack Obama's healthcare overall.

The report is part of the Obama administration's effort to convince the public of the advantages of the law, which contains insurance protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

"Americans living with pre-existing conditions are being freed from discrimination in order to get the health coverage they need," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement to be released Tuesday, the Post reported.

The study found that one-fifth to one-half of non-elderly people in the United States have conditions that trigger rejection or higher prices in the individual insurance market, the Post said. They range from cancer to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, asthma and high blood pressure.

A Republican House aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because the report was not yet public, told the Post: "When a new analysis is released on the eve of a vote in Congress, it's hard to view it as anything but politics and public relations."

The repeal vote would fulfil a campaign promise of Republicans who won control of the House in November elections. But the measure will likely die in the Senate, where Democrats held on to their majority.

(Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by Alison Williams)

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