Lawmakers protest healthcare bill’s caps on benefits over policyholder's lifetime

A cadre of Democratic lawmakers and patient groups is urging congressional Democratic leaders to abandon plans to permit health insurance companies to set lifetime limits on their customers’ benefits.

In letters sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.) and the other senior Democratic lawmakers authoring the final version of healthcare reform legislation, 29 House Democrats and seven Senate Democrats press the leaders to adopt the House’s take on the bill, which would prohibit insurers from establishing a dollar cap on how much they will pay out during a policyholder’s lifetime.

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“Individuals with chronic diseases and disorders must not be impeded in accessing necessary health care nor should they be impoverished with unreasonable lifetime limits on benefits,” Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy (R.I.), Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersStudy: Rhode Island, Delaware have fastest internet in country At the table: The importance of advocating for ABLE Week ahead in tech: Internet privacy repeal awaits Trump signature MORE (Wash.) and 28 colleagues wrote Friday. Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Al FrankenAl FrankenWhat killing net neutrality means for the internet Overnight Tech: Net neutrality fight descends into trench warfare | Zuckerberg visits Ford factory | Verizon shines light on cyber espionage Franken, top Dems blast FCC over net neutrality proposal MORE (Minn.) and five other senators wrote a separate letter Thursday.

Sixty-three groups, including the American Heart Association, National Kidney Foundation, Easter Seals and groups representing cancer, brain and spinal cord injury, and other patients penned a similar letter on Jan. 8.

Under the House-passed healthcare reform bill, insurance companies would be prohibited from establishing annual or lifetime limits on benefits. Although the Senate-passed bill also forbids annual limits, it would permit lifetime limits in existing insurance plans by “grandfathering” those policies while forbidding new plans from establishing them.

Throughout the debate on healthcare reform, Democrats have routinely promised their legislation would free people from the anxiety that high medical bills would lead to financial ruin, prompting some lawmakers and patient groups to protest when the lifetime caps were introduced into the bill this autumn.

“By preserving lifetime limits, patients in grandfathered plans will be left behind as strong patient protections are extended to those who are newly insured,” the senators wrote.

The House letter is signed by the leaders of two prominent Democratic caucuses: Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), the co-chairpeople of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; and Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Other members of both caucuses are also represented.

In addition to Dorgan and Franken, Democratic Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownDems crowd primaries to challenge GOP reps Battle begins over Wall Street rules Congress nears deal on help for miners MORE (Ohio), Carl LevinCarl LevinFor the sake of American taxpayers, companies must pay their fair share What the Iran-Contra investigation can teach us about Russia probe Senate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral MORE (Mich.), Bob CaseyBob CaseyDems struggle with abortion litmus test Dems crowd primaries to challenge GOP reps GOP fundraiser enters crowded primary for Pa. Senate seat MORE Jr. (Pa.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSenate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general Senate approves Trump's Agriculture chief Dems urge Trump to include Northeast Corridor tunnel project in infrastructure bill MORE (N.Y.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerAnother day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs Carly Fiorina 'certainly looking at' Virginia Senate run Top Obama adviser signs with Hollywood talent agency: report MORE (Calif.) signed the Senate letter.