FAQ: The 'Doc Fix' Dilemma

Among the must-do issues on Congress’ end of year list is the "doc fix" — billions of dollars needed to avert drastic rate cuts for physicians who treat Medicare’s 48 million beneficiaries.

For doctors, the nail-biter has become a familiar but frustrating rite. Lawmakers invariably defer the cuts prescribed by a 1997 reimbursement formula, which everyone agrees is broken beyond repair. But the deferrals are temporary, and the doc fix has become increasingly difficult to push through a divided and deficit-wary Congress. Last year, Congress delayed scheduled cuts 5 times, with the longest patch lasting 1 year.

The script is no different heading into 2012. Should lawmakers fail to reach agreement before returning home for the holidays, a half million doctors will face a 27% cut beginning Jan. 1. Although Democratic and Republican leaders have pledged to stop that from happening, they disagree over how to offset the costs of a fix. While there is little doubt some agreement will be reached, a deal could be delayed until early 2012.

Click here to read some answers to frequently asked questions about the doc fix: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2011/December/15/FAQ-Doc-Fix.aspx

Source: Kaiser Health News