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Congress looks to avoid threatened 24% cut in Medicare fees for doctors

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Congressional leaders have finally come to an agreement regarding new legislation to prevent a threatened 24% cut in fees paid to doctors who treat Medicare patients for the next 12 months. The legislation also encompasses numerous other issues of interest to physicians, hospitals, other healthcare providers including ambulance drivers in rural areas and drug companies.

Due to a “flawed” formula dating back nearly 37 years ago, Medicare doctors have been threatened with large fee cuts nearly ever year, and it has taken 16 emergency actions by Congress to prevent an allowed 4.8% Medicare fee cut (approved in 2002) to go into effect. The new action must take place no later than midnight Monday to block it again.

While the House appears to be ready to vote, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) hopes to be able to push the measure through sometime today, but warned that he would need the cooperation of 100 senators to make it happen.

Although there appears to be a considerable amount of bi-partisan support for repairing the Medicare formula, there is still no agreement on how to the government will pay the $140 billion cost over the next 10 years. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee would like to use some of the money earmarked for operations in Afghanistan, while Republicans are demanding savings from Obamacare.

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