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Physician Pay Formula Is Broke -- But Will Congress Fix It?
Don't hold your breath, say Washington insiders


To physicians, the danger is about as clear and present as it could possibly get: Unless something changes sharply by January 2006, your reimbursement will dive off a cliff.

Because Congress has boosted physician pay in recent years without fixing the underlying formula which normally determines docs' pay rates, observers expect Medicare to slash physician pay by roughly 5 percent each year from 2006 to 2012. The only hope is for Congress to adjust the formula before then.

But don't expect Congress to move quickly to solve this nightmare, Capitol Hill sources tell PBI. The returning Congress will have a number of other priorities ahead.

The first opportunity for Congress to discuss the looming disaster will come in February, when legislators will hold hearings on the president's proposed budget for the department of Health and Human Services, according to one Hill staffer. Expect to hear some questions about the disaster in the making at those hearings.