Here’s a way to get a lot of extremely sick people to die faster so you can save money on them: Allow insurers (including, presumably, those participating in Harry Reid’s watered-down public option, to set dollar limits on what they’ll pay out annually per patient.

Since, say, the bills for treating serious illnesses such as cancer, can top $100,000 within a matter of months, why not let insurance companies set an annual cap of $50,000? That would bend the cost curve into a pretzel in no time!

And that’s just what the Senate majority leader’s health bill permits, AP reports:

A loophole in the Senate health care bill would let insurers place annual dollar limits on medical care for people struggling with costly illnesses such as cancer, prompting a rebuke from patient advocates.

The legislation that originally passed the Senate health committee last summer would have banned such limits, but a tweak to that provision weakened it in the bill now moving toward a Senate vote.

As currently written, the Senate Democratic health care bill would permit insurance companies to place annual limits on the dollar value of medical care, as long as those limits are not “unreasonable.” The bill does not define what level of limits would be allowable, delegating that task to administration officials.

Adding to the puzzle, the new language was quietly tucked away in a clause in the bill still captioned “No lifetime or annual limits.”

Officials of the American Cancer Society Action Network expressed shock that the death-hastening tweak found its way into the bill. So should everyone else. But that’s what happens when you try to set up a system that, instead of protecting people against castrophic losses–which is supposed to be what insurance is all about–you use insurance as a vehicle to hand out routine medical care for free. Someone has to pay for those freebies, and under the Senate bill at it stands, it’s gonna be America’s sickest patients.

 Dare we say “death panels” one more time?