Rep. Brady: Permanent Medicare fix may come this year

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Medicare's current formula calls for deep cuts to doctors' payments. Congress routinely delays the cuts, causing them to grow. The cut has snowballed so far that if it were allowed to take effect, doctors would see their Medicare payments fall by nearly 30 percent.

Brady said lawmakers have been working diligently across party lines to come up with a plan to permanently replace the flawed formula, rather than simply delay the cut for one more year.

Leadership has given a "very big green light" to craft a permanent replacement, Brady said.

Doctors are always lobbying for a permanent "doc fix," but the enthusiasm has grown on Capitol Hill after the Congressional Budget Office unexpectedly slashed the cost of permanent repeal by more than $100 billion.

"It's on sale right now" and Congress should act before the price goes back up, Brady said.

He said talks have focused for now on what should replace the payment formula, and how to move Medicare "principally," if not completely, away from paying doctors based on the number of services they provide.

The more contentious part of the debate will come when lawmakers try to find offsets to pay for the "doc fix." Even with the CBO's discount, coming up with more than $100 billion in savings is never an easy task.

Coming to an agreement on the policy first won't necessarily make it easier to find offsets, Brady said, but he hopes the cordial first phase of the talks will open up "bipartisan momentum" to agree on a payment method.

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