Physicians will get a 10-month reprieve from a 27.4 percent cut in Medicare payments scheduled for March 1 under a tentative agreement reached Tuesday by a House-Senate committee. A payment freeze will be in effect through the end of the year. The agreement is part of a deal to extend a payroll tax cut and added unemployment benefits. Under Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula (SGR), the huge Medicare payment cut was scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, but was averted by a last-minute extension in late December of current payment rates. The AMA has consistently called on Congress to repeal the fatally flawed SGR formula. "The House and Senate conference committee agreement averts a 27 percent cut on March 1, but it represents a serious missed opportunity to permanently replace the flawed Medicare physician payment formula and protect access to care for military families and seniors," said AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD. "People outside of Washington question the logic of spending nearly $20 billion to postpone one cut for a higher cut next year, while increasing the cost of a permanent solution by about another $25 billion. "Congress had an opportunity to permanently end this problem, which is the sound, fiscally prudent policy choice. We appreciate efforts by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who publicly supported a framework for a permanent end to this perennial problem. We are deeply disappointed that Congress chose to just do another patchkicking the can, growing the problem and missing a clear opportunity to protect access to care for patients." A full vote on the measure is expected by Friday or after the President’s Day recess.