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 Mason ReidTrump presses GOP to change Senate rules Only thing Defense’s UFO probe proves is power of political favors Nevada Democrat accused of sexual harassment reconsiders retirement: report 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.

“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 RodgersHouse passes school safety bill amid gun protests House GOP frets over Pennsylvania race House poised to pass school safety measure MORE (Wash.) and 28 colleagues wrote Friday. Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenAcademy president accused of sexual harassment: report Top Nike executive resigns amid workplace complaints: report Met opera fires conductor after sexual misconduct probe 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 Campbell BrownDemocratic senator: People don’t know what’s going on between Trump and Putin Power struggle threatens to sink bank legislation Pension committee must deliver on retirement promise MORE (Ohio), Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinSen. Gillibrand, eyeing 2020 bid, rankles some Democrats The Hill's 12:30 Report Congress needs bipartisanship to fully investigate Russian influence MORE (Mich.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyHouse GOP frets over Pennsylvania race Do the numbers add up for Democrat Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania? Poll: Five Senate Dems would lose to GOP challenger if elections held today MORE Jr. (Pa.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGillibrand endorses Cuomo for reelection Coalition presses Transportation Dept. for stricter oversight of driverless cars Do Dems need someone people like to beat Trump? MORE (N.Y.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerThe ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response MORE (Calif.) signed the Senate letter.