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Healthcare Organizations Again Go to Bat for AHRQ

October 19, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Healthcare organizations are once again urging U.S. Senate and House leaders to protect the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) from more budget cuts for 2017.

Last week, 168 organizations across healthcare wrote two letters, one to the Senate, one to the House of Representatives, urging them to “protect AHRQ’s budget from further cuts and provide the agency at least $334 million in budget authority, consistent with current levels.” The letter read, “We understand lawmakers face difficult choices in funding myriad priorities with increasingly limited resources, but deep cuts to AHRQ in the current environment are pennywise and pound foolish.”

It continued, “With the federal government being the largest purchaser of healthcare—more than $1 trillion per year and rising—it has a responsibility to fund research that determines how to make care as effective, efficient, affordable, equitable, and safe as possible.” This is where AHRQ comes in, an agency with the sole purpose of generating and disseminating such evidence, the organizations stated. “The health services research, quality improvement protocols, datasets, and tools supported by AHRQ are used in hospitals, medical centers, physician and other clinician practices, nursing facilities, clinics, and public health departments in communities across the nation to improve the quality, access, and value of the healthcare system,” the letter said.

In June, the Senate Committee on Appropriations approved for Senate consideration a bipartisan spending bill that among other things, would cut AHRQ funding by $10 million to $324 million. Last year, AHRQ saw its 2015 budget of $364 million cut by about 8 percent. The research agency has long been disliked by some members of Congress who feel that the organization's work has not led to proven results. There was even a point last year when there was discussion that AHRQ would be terminated completely.

The proposed cuts in this bill would significantly undermine AHRQ’s role, the organizations wrote in the letter. “Understanding how to most effectively and efficiently deliver cures to patients through health services research is a critical component on the health research continuum, and one that has implications for health care quality, cost, access and ultimately patient outcomes,” the letter stated.

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