House approves bill to prevent Medicare docs fee cut as Monday deadline looms

The Associated Press

FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2013, file photo, the U.S. Capitol dome is silhouetted by the sunrise. Doctors who treat Medicare patients would get a last-minute reprieve from a scheduled 24 percent cut in their reimbursements from the government under a bill that’s on track to pass the House. It would be the 17th time Congress has stepped in with a temporary fix to a poorly designed Medicare fee formula that dates to a 1997 budget law. House action comes after efforts to permanently fix the formula appear to have fizzled. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

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"Basically, everybody agreed to not oppose it," Fleming said. Asked why he didn't block the measure, he said, "If I'd done that, you'd have most doctors across America see an immediate, 24 percent, off-the-cliff cut in their incomes" which would have meant "doctors across the board would have stopped seeing Medicare patients."

The measure blends $15 billion to address Medicare physicians' payments with about $5 billion more for a variety of other expiring health care provisions, like higher Medicare payments to rural hospitals and for ambulance rides in rural areas. On Wednesday night, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis that said the bill would increase spending by $14 billion over the next two years and that almost $11 billion of the legislation's savings wouldn't accrue until 2024.

Savings come from curbs on payments to hospitals that care for a large share of indigent patients and by employing a gimmick regarding automatic Medicare cuts that aren't due for another 10 years.

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Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.

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