Like a case of malaria, the Medicare doc fix problem just won’t go away.

On 17 occasions since Congress established the formula for Medicare payments to physicians, Congress has intervened in the application of that formula to prevent steep reductions in those payments that threatened access to care for the nation’s seniors.

The most recent patch expires next March, so discussions have begun on when, and how, Congress might intervene again – or if it might even pursue a permanent solution to what has become a seemingly permanent problem.

US Capitol DomeSome observers believe Congress may seek to address the Medicare physician payment problem during a post-election lame duck session.  Others suspect any attempt to do so will be part of a broader attempt to raise the federal debt ceiling next year.

Either way, hospitals remain concerned that Congress may seek the money to pay for a solution, whether short-term or long, by reducing Medicare payments to hospitals.

Read more about this long-running problems and the various ways it may be approached in this CQ HealthBeat article presented by the Commonwealth Fund.