Nearly 200 healthcare organizations have sent letters to the Senate and the House urging Congress to fully restore funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
In June, the House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of a bill that would eliminate the Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) AHRQ, a research agency that has long been disliked by some members of Congress. Additionally, the Senate Appropriations Committee proposed a 35 percent cut to AHRQ’s base budget. AHRQ’s 2015 budget was $440 million; one of AHRQ’s areas of focus is health IT research, and its 2016 budget request called for a total of $20 million in research grant support.
In the letters to Congress, the healthcare organizations involved—including the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)— said that “deep cuts to AHRQ in the current fiscal environment are pennywise and pound foolish.” They 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.”
The letter continues, “AHRQ is the only federal research agency with the sole purpose of producing evidence to make healthcare safer; of higher quality; more accessible, equitable, and affordable; and to ensure that the evidence is understood and used. AHRQ-funded research, tools, and datasets are being used in health settings across the nation to help us understand and improve a complex and costly health system so that we can achieve better outcomes for more people at greater value. AHRQ’s research and data help Americans get their money’s worth when it comes to healthcare. We need more of it, not less.”
The letter concludes, “We recognize the reduction in AHRQ’s budget authority is largely a function of the historically low and grossly inadequate allocation provided for health research and other critical programs under the sequestered spending caps. But without a dedicated funding stream for AHRQ’s important work, it’s misguided to assume that other agencies would absorb this portfolio given pressures they face in fulfilling their own specific mandates amidst budgetary constraints. Health services research—through AHRQ—needs a dedicated funding stream.”