WASHINGTON (AP) — We've heard this before: Doctors caring for Medicare patients face a steep pay cut Jan. 1, unless Congress acts.

But this time Congress is pursuing a permanent fix for the annual drama that has undermined the medical profession's confidence in Medicare.

A fundamental budget change has handed lawmakers a rare chance to repeal the broken system for paying doctors.

Slowing health care inflation has slashed by more than half the estimated cost of going to a new system.

Democrats and Republicans plan to push ahead this week with a framework for a new payment policy, although a final fix will have to wait for next year.

The new approach would set up financial carrots and sticks for doctors to provide quality, cost-effective care.

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