Loophole in HC Bill Sparks 'Death Panel' Debate

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A loophole in the Senate's health care bill is adding new life to the debate over death panels.

The provision would allow insurance companies to limit what they spend each year on medical care for people with costly illnesses, like cancer.

The bill says the limits must not be "unreasonable," but doesn't offer specifics. That task would be left to government officials.

The loophole has already received harsh criticism from patient advocates, like the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The group said this will lead to decreased health care coverage for people with diseases like cancer.

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However, Democratic officials of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, though have yet to comment publicly, said the bill has numerous provisions that will benefit patients with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, as well as improvements in preventive care.

Advocates for patients said they are concerned the language will stay in the bill and could go all the way to President Barack Obama's desk.

"The primary purpose of insurance is to protect people against catastrophic loss," said Stephen Finan, a policy expert with the cancer society's advocacy affiliate. "If you put a limit on benefits, by definition it's going to affect people who are dealing with catastrophic loss."

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