In what was essentially an 8-6 party-line vote, the House Appropriations Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services subcommittee voted through a bill that would cut $1.3 billion in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as abolish the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
“This legislation reflects our strong commitment to reduce over-regulation and unnecessary, ineffective spending that feeds the nation’s deficits and hampers economic growth. A careful look was given to all programs and agencies in the bill, with the budget knife aimed at excess spending and underperforming programs, but also with the goal of making wise investments in programs that help the American people the most,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said in a statement.
Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) was the only Republican to vote against it, according to Politico.
The bill, which will be passed along to the U.S. Senate, has been controversial in the healthcare industry. Many, Bruce Siegel, M.D., president and CEO of the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems (NAPH), said terminating the AHRQ would badly undermine important research on health care quality, disparities in care and patient safety.
"NAPH members strongly support AHRQ research and partner with the agency on initiatives to find and use best practices for improving quality and value at safety net institutions. Examples are plentiful. AHRQ funding has supported the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center's Project ECHO, which remotely connects urban medical center disease experts with rural general practitioners and community health workers to care for the chronically ill and others who lack access to specialists. Boston Medical Center's Project RED has re-engineered workflows to improve patient safety and decrease readmissions. This AHRQ-funded study is being replicated in organizations across the country,” Siegel said in a statement.
Siegel said the move to cut the AHRQ, which was founded more than 20 years ago in 1989, is “misguided.” Other groups, such as Research! America, have also weighed in against the bill. Research! America president and CEO Mary Woolley said the AHRQ’s research is “addressing medical errors that kill more than 100,000 people a year and accelerating patient access to the best medical practices.”