Hospital and physician groups are meeting with congressional staffers to discuss averting a scheduled reduction to Medicare physician reimbursement rates, which could be included in a larger deficit-reduction deal.

The 26.5 percent reduction, which is the result of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, will take effect on January 1, 2013, unless Congress acts to prevent the cut.

Last month, the Congressional Budget Office projected that a one-year patch to freeze payments at current rates and avert the scheduled reduction would cost nearly $7 billion more than previously estimated. Extending the current rates by one year could cost about $25 billion over a decade.

One plan to offset the SGR cost calls for eliminating a provision in the Affordable Care Act that would temporarily raise Medicaid payments to primary care providers to match higher Medicare rates. Another potential offset includes reducing reimbursements for skilled nursing facilities and lowering payment rates for other providers and hospitals.