Doc fix in the works as part of payroll tax cut extension

February 15, 2012 by MassDevice staff

Congress brokers a deal to preserve Medicare payments to doctors by bundling it in a larger bill extending payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits, but the funding comes from cuts to prevention and public health budgets.

Doc holding money

Congressional negotiators reached a tentative deal that would preserve Medicare funding for physicians as part of a larger deal surrounding payroll tax cut extensions.

The deal, brokered almost entirely by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), makes up for the missing dollars by taking big chunks out of budgets allocated by health care laws to prevention, public health and hospital aid funding.

Leaders from both political parties praised the tentative accord, which extends current pay roll tax cuts through this year and saves $1,000 a year for families earning $50,000, the New York Times reported. The bill would cost about $150 billion.

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If the groups can nail down the remaining details, the measure would also prevent a Medicare cut that would slash more than ¼ of reimbursements to doctors beginning March 1.

Physicians stand to lose 27.4 percent of their reimbursement payments, an accumulation of gradual cuts that have been delayed by Congress in a series of efforts colloquially called the "doc fix."

Congress has been working on extensions to the doc fix for several months, most recently by delaying the cut-off deadline, originally set for the end of 2011, by 2 months.

House Republicans had previously suggested that Medicare payments could be maintained by charging high-income seniors increased rates to participate in the program.