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.