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. Sniffit

    "You shouldn't be allowed to smoke, have unprotected sex, eat like a pig, or continue to do anything else that is voluntary and puts your health at risk in any way if your getting health care on the taxpayers dime..."

    Sooooo, someone who probably throws the word "soshulism" around like it's a political billy club is suggesting that instead we resort to fascism? What a suprise.

    December 11, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "They would have never gone along with this insane mentality that looks at those who are more successful should be used as piggy banks to fund programs in order to lock up portions of the population when election time comes around."

    Just keep in mind that it was the Republican party in the 1860's that introduced America to what is called the "progressive" income tax (i.e., the graduated tax based on income brackets).

    December 11, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  3. db

    It's not even law yet and already they're rationing care!

    December 11, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  4. annie against biased news

    I thought this was one of the complaints dirty harry had against ins. companies – now dirty harry wants to put a cap on how much treatment we get? Say you maxed out on your benefits but $100 more will cure you – what does dirty harry do shoot you in the head?

    December 11, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  5. Randy, San Francisco

    A cap is exactly what the GOP and the Health Insurance companies want This is a continuation of the current system in which health care is rationed. Hopefully, the cap will eliminated in the conference committee.

    December 11, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  6. cedgar

    Everyone stop blaming the Republican's!
    That party did not write this stupid bill "Reid" did.
    Reid does not need the Republican's to past anything!
    I hope this dam thing gets lost.
    But I fear it will not after all our President wants a win no matter if
    it is right or not!
    How stupid has this become that "the elected" are more concern with
    a "win" than if this is the right bill?
    People we are in a sorry state of affairs in more ways than one.

    December 11, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  7. Kevin in Ohio

    What a MESS. This bill is just getting longer and longer. START OVER! And use your BRAINS, Congress.

    December 11, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  8. terry,va

    Here's another LIE we were told. The Dem's said there wouldn't be any caps on benefits. We should demand to see what is in this bill before we get it shoved down our throat like the stimulus bill. That was a joke but at least it has and end to it. If we get a bad health care bill it will continue until the country goes broke or we will be paying 60% of our wages in taxes.

    December 11, 2009 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  9. AGd

    With a lifetime cap, fewer people will reach it. With an annual cap, they "insure" more people reach the limit – a giveaway. And for those who say just buy a better policy, yes but it and pay a 40% tax on it. They've covered all angles.

    I am for reform but not the George Bush style of reform.

    Oh and where in the constitution? . . . how about the preamble "to promote the general welfare".

    We elected Obama and got McCain.

    December 11, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  10. whatever

    I was going to comment on this article but instead I think I'll go back and get a few good laugh's on previous post about how much the Dem's care about the American people and how wonderful it is to have a Prez that understands and care's for the little guy . Should be a hoot.

    December 11, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  11. Mark in Atlanta

    Score another win for the insurance companies. We are the only country in the world that would allow ourselves to be forced into the massively screwed up for-profit health care system we have now, and all it takes to convince us that we have it good is a few hundred million dollars of televised misinformation. Maybe we will get something that will be a marginal advance toward a more effecient, fair, and effective system, but every day the the big money special interest seem to be gaining ground against common sense.

    December 11, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  12. Democrats = party of hate!

    Wait!!!

    How can you blame this on the Republicans??? It's the Democrats that have the 60 votes in the Senate and the majority in the house.

    Stop blaming Republicans and look at you OWN party. The ignorance and lack of accountability among liberals is AMAZING!!

    December 11, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  13. Marie Laveaux

    Baucus is starting to look and act more and more like a Republican to me. What's so frustrating about all of this is that the original goal and intent of this whole thing is fading every day. Shame on House Democrats for putting up with this crap.

    December 11, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  14. mjm

    "Just keep in mind that it was the Republican party in the 1860's that introduced America to what is called the "progressive" income tax (i.e., the graduated tax based on income brackets)."

    Just during the civil war as they were freeing the slaves from the Democrats in the South. You left that part out.

    December 11, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  15. Susan in NC

    What next? That is truly a surprise and a shock! Hope they're making plans for "caps" on annual insurance premiums, too!

    December 11, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  16. mjm

    "And the really sad part? I can't get any of my fellow countrymen to care more about these issues than whether or not gay people can get a piece of paper saying they are married"

    Ok we'll give you gay marriage if you give up on destroying health care....Deal?

    December 11, 2009 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  17. Susan in NC

    That's nuts! Hope they're planning caps for annual insurance premiums, too!

    December 11, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  18. CAW in MD

    To Jimmy James,

    You're misinformed, on a variety of levels.

    1) The Senate bill is not going to be the final law - if it passes, it has to get reconciled with the House bill. So nothing about this is set in stone.

    2) Tort reform, as scored by the CBO (the official scorekeeper for this legislation) will save 54 billion over 10 years. Compared to the expenditure on health care over the same time period (20 trillion dollars), that's about 0.25%. It's pretty much a non-factor.

    3) Finally, the Senate bill does include provisions that insurers cannot drop you if you get sick, and must accept you even with pre-existing conditions. The House bill includes those as well, so assuming health care reform makes it, you will get at least two of the things that you want.

    Is it perfect? No. Is it better than what we have now? Yes. But just think how much better this bill could have been if Republicans had actually negotiated rather than trying to deny Obama a political victory at whatever the cost, including their truthfulness and their integrity.

    December 11, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  19. mjm

    "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."

    Maybe if you're working in the fast food industry.

    Most companies have a choice between PPOs, HMOs, high deductible, HSA.....and you have a choice to go on-line and get your own insurance. You have more choice then with a public option or a single payer anyway.

    Actually, most major fast food chains have great benefits...look into it.

    December 11, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  20. Nevada dude

    Just remember we could have had a robust public option if we had one more Democratic senator in the senate. This is how important your vote is people!

    December 11, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  21. GI Joe

    Greedy Obstructionist Party is our DEATH PANEL.

    One way or another, they will get paid by Ins. Companies and keep their money, health care, etc. And their obstruction has caused US to get worse than could have been predicted.

    Vote the Obstructionists OUT.

    December 11, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  22. stickyideas

    Let's also cap how much you can pay for getting your car fixed after a wreck. And cap how much we should pay per year for fighting a war. And cap how much we should spend when dying at the end of life. Definitely cap how much we spend on public education. Why not just close all public schools...just as we gutted the public healthcare option. Close all public universities. We'd save a lot of money there. But keep giving tax credits to current home owners who want to buy another house.

    Edward Kennedy is squirms in his grave. Capping medical benefits is inhumane and will cause needless suffering. This is an embarassing moment in American history.Access to healthcare (not rationed care) is an entitlement.

    Why not just tell all the troops that, when they get home from Afghanistan, they will only have "xxx" amount of dollars to spend on fixing their traumatic btain injuries.

    December 11, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  23. They call me "tater salad"

    By the time they're done with this bill, it will seem like there never was a bill in the first place because absolutely nothing will change and we'll all go right back to being slaves to the Health Insurance Empire........Seems like every day I find one more reason to hate our Government, Republicans and Democrats.......They're both the most unproductive, money grubbing, group of parasites this country has ever seen!!!! Our government needs one big collective enema, and it's up to us to finally administer one ASAP!!!!!!

    December 11, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  24. paul oregon

    what a bunch of B.S. so much for health care reform . the dem. couldnt pour pi$$ out out of a boot if it was full. they wont have to worry abount my VOTE . how sad!

    December 11, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  25. Cap THIS, Rethuglicriminals

    If you pass caps, you can watch your spineless selves pass out the DOOR after the next election.

    December 11, 2009 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
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