The House Appropriations Committee has cut funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in its final fiscal year 2016 omnibus bill, but the research agency will not be terminated after all.
In June, the House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of a bill that would eliminate the Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) AHRQ all together, a research agency that has long been disliked by some members of Congress who feel that the organization's work has not led to proven results. However, the White House had asked for funding of the AHRQ, which has areas devoted to health IT research, to remain static. Now, in its FY16 final omnibus bill, the House Appropriations Committee has provided AHRQ with $334 million in budget authority in FY16, down from $364 million in FY15, or a cut of about 8 percent.
In the letters to Congress in October, several healthcare organizations—including the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)— said that “deep cuts to AHRQ in the current fiscal environment are pennywise and pound foolish.” The organizations wrote, “As you work to enact final spending legislation for fiscal year (FY) 2016, we hope Congress will work together to enact sequestration relief and restore AHRQ’s budget authority to $364 million.”
While the agency’s budget did get cut by 8 percent, the effort of the healthcare stakeholders could have prevented AHRQ from being terminated outright. According to the bill, “the agreement expects AHRQ to focus its research on its traditional mission, such as improving patient safety and preventing healthcare associated infections.”