Lawmakers strike tentative doc fix deal

Final details have yet to be disclosed

Lawmakers on the conference committee charged with delaying scheduled Medicare physician pay cuts closed in on a deal on Tuesday, but the final details have yet to be released.

Members of the committee and their aides said the deal still is being finalized, but they are optimistic that an agreement would be announced on Wednesday and approved by Friday.

The announcement came just one day after House Republicans said they would introduce legislation this week to extend the payroll tax break through the end of the year without cost offsets.

The tentative agreement would allow Medicare to continue paying physicians at current rates, avoiding a 27.4% reduction in fees set to start on March 1. According to aides, the "doc fix" would delay the scheduled cuts for 10 months. The provision is expected to cost about $20 billion.

The proposal would pay for the delay through cuts to the prevention and public health fund created by the federal health reform law, along with reductions in aid to hospitals with bad debt and other health care-related spending cuts.

Aides stressed that the final details—including how to pay for the "doc fix"—still were being worked out it (Steinhauer, New York Times, 2/14; Kane/Nakamura, Washington Post, 2/14; Bendavid/Peterson, Wall Street Journal, 2/15; Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 2/14 [subscription required]; Walker, MedPage Today, 2/14).

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