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 ReidReid backs Flint deal Forbes: Trump’s fortune down 0M Obama urges McConnell, Reid to sustain 9/11 bill veto 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 RodgersMcCarthy suggests GOP could gain House seats in election Ivanka sells Trump childcare to Capitol Hill Ivanka Trump to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill MORE (Wash.) and 28 colleagues wrote Friday. Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Al FrankenAl FrankenOvernight Cybersecurity: FBI probes possible hack of Dems' phones | Trump's '400-pound hacker' | Pressure builds on Yahoo | Poll trolls run wild Dems slam Yahoo CEO over delay in acknowledging hack Senators challenge status quo on Saudi arms sales 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 BrownLawmakers play catch-up as smartphone banking surges Overnight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas House votes to eliminate Olympic medal tax MORE (Ohio), Carl LevinCarl LevinThe Fed and a return to banking simplicity What Our presidential candidates can learn from Elmo Zumwalt Will there be a 50-50 Senate next year? MORE (Mich.), Bob CaseyBob CaseyDems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare Enough bickering, time to stay focused on important issues: Pennsylvania holds keys in Clinton-Trump tilt MORE Jr. (Pa.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas Senate Dems call for investigation into Wells Fargo's wage practices Fears mount that Obama will change course on Israel in final months MORE (N.Y.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerDems gain upper hand on budget Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears MORE (Calif.) signed the Senate letter.