WASHINGTON (AP) - Congressional advisers are calling for a new out-of-pocket charge for Medicare home health care, a service that until now has been free of charge to patients.

The recommendation Thursday from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission comes as lawmakers look for health care spending cuts to help get control of federal deficits. The advisory panel did not prescribe an amount, but its staff has suggested the charge be $150 for a series of related visits.

 More than 3 million seniors got home health care last year, including visits from nurses, therapists and personal care attendants.

The service was once seen as a cost saver, since it's much cheaper than putting patients in the hospital, but costs are approaching $20 billion a year and rising. The AARP seniors lobby opposes the plan.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)