Adding to the puzzle, the new language was quietly tucked away in a clause in the bill still captioned "No lifetime or annual limits."
The 2,074-page bill would carry out President Barack Obama's plan to revamp the health care system, expanding coverage to millions now uninsured and trying to slow budget-busting cost increases. A tentative deal among Senate Democrats to back away from creating a new government program to compete with private insurers appears to have overcome a major obstacle to the bill's passage.
Officials of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said they were taken by surprise when the earlier ban on annual coverage limits was undercut, adding that they have not been able to get a satisfactory explanation.
"We don't know who put it in, or why it was put in," said Stephen Finan, a policy expert with the cancer society's advocacy affiliate.
Democratic officials of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee would not comment publicly but said the bill contains numerous provisions that will benefit patients with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, not to mention improvements in preventive care.
In the House bill, neither annual nor lifetime limits would be allowable under an essential benefits package intended to provide comprehensive coverage.
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