California Healthline Daily Edition

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CBO: One-Year Medicare ‘Doc Fix’ To Cost $7B More Than Expected

A one-year patch to freeze Medicare physician reimbursement rates and avert a scheduled 26.5% reduction would cost nearly $7 billion more than previously estimated, according to new projections from the Congressional Budget Office, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/20).

The reduction -- which is the result of the sustainable growth rate formula -- is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2013, unless Congress acts to prevent it. In recent years, Congress has approved mostly short-term payment patches to stave off the cuts.

According to CBO, delaying the cut and freezing the payments for one year would cost $25 billion, up from $18.5 billion in CBO's last estimate. A two-year patch would cost $41.5 billion, while freezing Medicare physician payment rates for a decade would cost nearly $244 billion, CBO said.

According to "Healthwatch," there is a chance that lawmakers might postpone the Medicare cut until March as part of a deal to avoid the mandated spending cuts under sequestration (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/20). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.