Other savings come from curbs on payments to hospitals that care for a large share of indigent patients. But those hospitals first get a one-year reprieve from cuts scheduled in 2016.
The measure would give Medicare doctors a 0.5 percent fee increase through the end of the year. It also creates two new mental health grant programs, including $1.1 billion over four years for improvements to community health centers and $60 million over four years for outpatient treatment for people with serious mental illness.
The measure solves the fee schedule problem through next March.
Because of a flawed formula dating to 1997, Medicare doctors are threatened with big fee cuts almost every year. After allowing a 4.8 percent Medicare fee cut to take effect in 2002, Congress has since stepped in 16 times to prevent the cuts.
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