December 11th, 2009
03:19 PM ET
3 months ago

Senate health care bill to allow caps on annual benefits, Democratic aides say

Washington (CNN) – The health care bill currently being negotiated in the Senate would allow caps on annual insurance benefits, reversing a previous version of the plan that would have prevented insurance companies from establishing such limits, according to three separate Democratic aides.

"We were trying to minimize premium impacts," explained Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, acknowledging the change.

The trade-off has drawn criticism from the American Cancer Society's
Cancer Action Network, a patient advocacy group.

"We were very surprised by this," said Stephen Finan, the group's senior policy director. Finan worries that cancer patients, who often require expensive procedures, could still face major financial losses if annual coverage benefits are capped too low.

Policymakers on the Hill are defending the legislation.


"The provisions in the bill are a big improvement over the current system in which cancer patients have to fight for coverage and often don't get the preventative services that catch cancers at an early stage. We hope to make the provisions even stronger in the bill Congress sends to the president," explained a Democratic Senate aide, who declined to be identified about the change.

Aides say senators will continue to review the policy closely as the
process moves forward.

"Ensuring affordable health care costs requires a balance between too
much insurance market regulation and not enough," said Erin Shields, an aide to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana. "That balance is what this bill aims to achieve, especially with regard to annual limits. Senators want to ensure this provision provides as much consumer protection as possible while
keeping premiums affordable."

–CNN's Ted Barrett, Ed Hornick John Bonifield and Elizabeth Cohen
contributed to this report.


Filed under: Harry Reid • Health care • Senate
soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. Hopefully Reif and Pelosi will get cancer....

    and then we can put a cap on their benefits.....

    December 11, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  2. George

    Do this bill right and quit kissing republican butts!!! They hate you and only care for the big money people.

    December 11, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  3. Cancer patients will die a slow, painful death...

    as they reach the caps......these are the death panels Sarah Palin warned us about...they are almost real now.....

    December 11, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  4. bobby

    It is becoming clear that Baucus is an insurance industry sell out.

    December 11, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  5. Albo58

    So Obama care does:
    1. Add to the national debt
    2. Is rationed
    3. Cap patient spending
    4. Drive up cost to the Americans that actually HAVE to pay for it
    4. Goes against the will of the American majority

    Looks like the facts make this President and his mindless drones complete liars...no real surprise!

    December 11, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  6. Four and The Door

    Here again is another perfect reason why the Federal Government should keep from getting too involved in the health care system. There are plenty of special interest group lobbyists who will make sure that the government will spend as much as possible for their interest. There are plenty of politicians who love to cave in to lobbyists. ObamaCare will increase the cost of health insurance more than any of us ever dreamed possible. Good luck reining those costs in once the ball gets rolling!

    December 11, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  7. Mike in MN

    I frankly do not see how insurance compaines can even calculate what premiums they need to charge if there is no limit on how much they have to pay out. Auto, home and life insurance all have limits on how much would be paid out on a claim and premiums are calculated accordingly, how can health be any different. One thing is for certain, premiums will go up if there is no cap on how much insurance have to pay out. It is tragic if someone who has is sick uses up all their annual beneifts that their premiums provide. There is no solution to this that will not result in insurance premiums going up. Insurance compainies would have to estimate somehow what the additional payouts would amount to and spread the costs to everyone in increases to premiums charged.

    December 11, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  8. SocialismBad

    Just when you'd thought the Democrats had run out of STUPID IDEAS they go and plop this one out there! Are these idiots completely brain dead??!! Talk about an automatic FINANCIAL DEATH PANEL built right into your health plan!!

    All of these fools need to be RECALLED before they destroy this country and everybody living here.

    December 11, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  9. Dave

    "Declinded to be identified?" Come on CNN. That's pretty silly.

    December 11, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  10. Duck Fallas

    End government run health care. Abolish Medicare and Medicaid NOW!! I don't want my tax dollars paying for grandpa's viagra.

    December 11, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  11. mjm

    "Senators want to ensure this provision provides as much consumer protection as possible while keeping premiums affordable."

    That's not the job of the government. The free market determines the cost of the premium and the coverage provided. The insurance industry provides the product, people choose to buy them. That's how it works....except for Medicare......which is going broke...go figure.

    December 11, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  12. Milton Williams

    It appears the Senators wrting this health reform bill have gone nuts, now they're talking about caps on a person's coverage? This idea is the craziest yet, with Hospital bills going up now they want to cap your coverage, insane!

    December 11, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  13. Chris

    I would like to know at what point is the American public going to see that the Majority of the Senators in Congress are in the pockets of the Insurance companies. They are a bunch of self serving folks who have money to get whatever healthcare they personally need if they are sick. While the folks who put them in office suffer!!! It is time for Term LIMITS!!! Oh and for you folks who say we have that already and it is called voting, I say please look at those Senators and Reps who have been in office for over a decade!!!

    December 11, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  14. gl, From Pittsburgh

    The health care bill currently being negotiated in the Senate would allow caps on annual insurance benefits, reversing a previous version of the plan that would have prevented insurance companies from establishing such limits, according to three separate Democratic aides.

    I SAY WE NEED ALL THIS FOOL IN CONGRESS VOTED OUT. THEY ONLY CARE ABOUT THEMSELF AND ARE ALL OUT FOR THE INSURANCE COMPANIES! THIS BILL IS WASTE OF TAX PAYER MONEY!

    December 11, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  15. gl, From Pittsburgh

    Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana is nothing but a BIG CROOK!

    December 11, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    Another bone thrown to big insurance companies that only want to provide you with health care like your measles and mumps shots but throw you out in the cold if you're sick. This isn't what we gave the Dems the control of Congress to do, but they're all spineless chickensh-ts. Die quick, people. Die quick.

    December 11, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  17. Ted from Calif.

    It sounds like the insurance is getting good value from the money they contribute to our legislators. It would be really wonderful if they represented the taxpayers who elect them half as well as the represent those who bribe them.

    Voters, remember these jackals at the next election and fire them!

    December 11, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  18. frustratedatignorance

    "The free market determines the cost of the premium and the coverage provided. The insurance industry provides the product, people choose to buy them. That's how it works."

    NO, that's how it's SUPPOSED to work. That is NOT how it works now – we have NO choice – there's no choosing anything if you get your insurance through work. And judging by the weak-willed Dems, we're not going to get anything but screwed. Don't they know they were elected to FIX this?

    December 11, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "as they reach the caps......these are the death panels Sarah Palin warned us about...they are almost real now....."

    A. They ARE real now. Insurance companies like to cap annual bennies. They also like to boot you by rescinding the contract if you come down with something expensive.

    B. Palin did not warn us about this. Palin was purposefully misinterpreting language creating a board to manage the health care reform bill's provisions, etc. She was in no way referring to insurance companies capping coverage, which they already do in many cases...either explicitly or functionally.

    December 11, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  20. gl, From Pittsburgh

    I am a breast cancer survivor and thank God my insurance do not have an annual insurance cap. If it did, I would be Bankrupt by now. This bill is a waste of Tax payers money.

    I never thought I would agree with Sara Palin regarding any thing that comes out her month, but it looks like she is right about her death panels.

    December 11, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  21. gl, From Pittsburgh

    Ted from Calif. December 11th, 2009 3:52 pm ET

    It sounds like the insurance is getting good value from the money they contribute to our legislators. It would be really wonderful if they represented the taxpayers who elect them half as well as the represent those who bribe them.

    Voters, remember these jackals at the next election and fire them!

    --------------------------------

    I attend to do just that becasue there are alot of them up for re-election in my State. I think we need all new Policymakers on the Hill because they all are looking like Crook from both parties!

    December 11, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  22. Reagan was wrong

    1. Add to the national debt
    2. Is rationed
    3. Cap patient spending
    4. Drive up cost to the Americans that actually HAVE to pay for it
    4. Goes against the will of the American majority

    -–

    Hey guess what? Insurance companies already do all that! Except (the second) #4. Do you have a citation for that?

    December 11, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  23. Renee' McDuffie

    Albo58 you need to quit. Everything that goes wrong is not Obama's fault. WHere were you when Bush was in office. To be quiet honest the President has very little power. He can sign a bill into law or veto it. If there is a problem the Rethugs are responsible because they let the spending get out of control for the last eight years. Do you think Obama being a black man became President is a flute? If you do you are really some kind of dumb. This man has God on his side and no weapons against him will prosper. You need to read your bible before you start making all of these Palin comments. God Bless your igorance.

    December 11, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  24. kuriya

    I don't think the democrat know what they are doing. Do they think before agreeing on something? This is the most stupid thing I ever heard. This are some of the reason the republican keeps saying no because they know the democrat don't know what they are talking about. If want to favor the insurance company they will all be out of power. If president Obama depend on his democrat in senate and in congress to pass the health care bill he might kiss his rating good bye. Harry Reid most not know what he is reading writing or agreeing to.

    December 11, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  25. Jeff

    Insurance premiums are calculated as a function of both risk and cost of an event (car accident, heart attack, house fire, etc – regardless of type of insurance). Therefore, if the costs can be indefinite (infinity), and a risk exists, no matter how small, premiums can justifiably be infinite as well. Not having a cap would fall into the 'too good to be true, probably just a scam' category of products/services.

    December 11, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
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