WASHINGTON (AP) - Congress has agreed to a one-month delay in Medicare payment cuts to doctors, giving a short-term reprieve to a looming crisis over treatment of the nation's elderly.

The House approved the Senate-passed bill that postpones a 23 percent cut in doctors' pay that had been scheduled to take effect Dec. 1. That gives lawmakers a month to come up with a longer-term plan to overhaul a system that has bedeviled Congress, angered doctors and jeopardized health care for 46 million elderly and disabled.

The payment cuts are the result of a 1990s budget-balancing law. With estimates that as many as two-thirds of doctors would stop taking new Medicare patients if the cuts go into effect, Congress has had to periodically step in to stop the automatic cuts.