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House, Senate agree on Medicare fix

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday that he and top Senate Democrat Harry Reid have reached agreement on legislation to forestall a looming 24 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors.

Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said the legislation would fix the issue for 12 months and the House will vote Thursday.

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Because of a flawed formula dating to 1997, Medicare doctors face big cuts almost every year. Congress has always stepped in to prevent the cuts and must act by Monday.

When Congress has blown the deadline in the past, Medicare has dealt with the problem by simply delaying processing payments until the formula had been raised.

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is likely to seek to speed the measure through the Senate as early as Thursday, but it would take cooperation from all 100 senators to make that happen.

The move for yet another temporary fix to the problem comes as efforts for permanently solving the problem are foundering. There is widespread support for bipartisan legislation to repair the broken Medicare formula, but there’s no agreement on how to bear the 10-year, $140 billion cost.

The temporary measure is financed by a variety of familiar cuts to health care providers, though some gamesmanship is being employed.

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