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Former Representatives for Nevada's 4th, Steven Horsford, left, Democratic candidate, and Republican candidate Cresent Hardy talk during the Hispanics in Politics breakfast meeting in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. They running against each other in the CD-4 race. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Republican Cresent Hardy voted to repeal Obamacare when he was a member of Congress, but he said Wednesday that he doesn’t support efforts to end the law’s insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Hardy’s comments came after a meeting of the group Hispanics in Politics in Las Vegas, where he and his Democratic opponent in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, former Rep. Steven Horsford, gave stump speeches and took questions on topics ranging from what Congress can do to address chronic health conditions to the designation of Gold Butte as a national monument. The event was the same day as oral arguments in Texas on a Republican-led lawsuit seeking to finish off the partially dismantled Affordable Care Act.

“Pre-existing conditions is probably the one thing I really like,” Hardy said, adding that “we need to figure out how to fund it.”

Asked if he agreed with the lawsuit that, if successful, would end the pre-existing conditions protections, he said “I think it is too late in the game to get rid of the ACA.”

“We need to move forward and try to protect it, but also put policies in place that turn it over to the states, let them administrate it at that level,” said Hardy, who told the audience he has diabetes, which is considered a pre-existing condition that insurers in the past have used to deny people coverage. “If we’re going to be involved do it on the grant side, trickle it down to the states.”

Obamacare currently requires insurers to cover people who have pre-existing conditions, prevents them from charging people more based on their medical history and specifies that insurers can’t refuse to pay for treatments because of someone’s medical history.

But the fate of the popular pre-existing condition provisions depends on the outcome of Texas v. United States, a lawsuit brought by 20 states (but not Nevada). It challenges the constitutionality of the entire Affordable Care Act after Congress removed the tax penalty on people who don’t buy health insurance.

Horsford staunchly defended the law during the event as a way to address widespread chronic health conditions and said he believes health care is a right, not a privilege. He said Hardy needs to answer for his opposition to Obamacare.

“He might want to answer why he voted to take health care away from millions of Americans,” Horsford said after the event. “Three hundred thousand Nevadans are covered by the pre-existing conditions protections under the Affordable Care Act. They’re voting to take that away. He supports an administration that does that and then he says I can’t find one area where I disagree with Trump?”

Horsford appeared to be referencing a Nevada Independent interview in which Hardy was asked which Trump policies he disagreed with.

“There [are] areas, but I don’t think they need to be discussed,” Hardy said at the time.

Horsford also pushed back when told Hardy supports protections for pre-existing conditions.

“He might want to talk to the administration because today they have efforts to take those protections away and he says he can’t find one area where he disagrees with Trump on,” Horsford said. “Trump and the Republicans in Congress are voting to take those protections away. So which is it?”

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