The House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of a bill that would eliminate the Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) Agency for Health Research on Quality (AHRQ), a research agency that has long been disliked by some members of Congress.
The appropriations bill, which the House committee approved on Wednesday by a vote of 30-21, must be approved by the full House as well as the Senate. In total, the draft bill includes $153 billion in discretionary funding, which is a reduction of $3.7 billion below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $14.6 billion below the President’s budget request.
Specifically, 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. Just last week, AHRQ announced plans to fund three Centers of Excellence to study how high-performing healthcare systems promote evidence-based practices in delivering care. The three grants, which are set to begin in September, will provide approximately $52 million over five years to study how complex delivery systems disseminate evidence-based findings and provide lessons learned to inform the dissemination of findings in other settings. However, effective Oct. 1, 2015, the agency would be eliminated outright if this bill were to pass.
Also of note, the legislation would additionally cut the funding of two other healthcare research agencies: the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. Additionally, the draft bill would keep funding for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) the same as last year at $60.4 million, while the Obama administration had requested an increase to $91.8 million. It would also increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by 3.6 percent.
“The funding in this bill is targeted to programs that are proven to produce results. The American people rely on these investments for life-saving research, protection from deadly outbreaks and bio-attacks, safe workplaces, and effective education systems,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said in a statement. “In addition, great efforts were made to ensure none of the funding in the bill is spent wastefully or inappropriately. This includes terminating unnecessary programs, trimming back lower-priority areas, and preventing tax dollars from going toward extreme, intrusive regulations that have a net negative effect on this nation.”