In mid-January, President Obama signed the bipartisan Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, bringing a tumultuous year—one that included the first government shutdown in 17 years—to a welcome end. The massive “omnibus” bill bundles 12 separate spending bills, including the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. This typically controversial bill, which includes spending for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and other health agencies, is the first of its kind since fiscal year 2012.
As a direct result of your membership support of AcademyHealth’s advocacy efforts in 2013, we are pleased to report that health services research fared well in the omnibus, all things considered. The bill represents a marked improvement over FY 2013, a year that brought sequestration, unnecessary restrictions on health services research, and attempts to terminate AHRQ.
In the omnibus, NIH receives a $1 billion increase, restoring most (though not all) of the funding lost due to sequestration last year. AHRQ will see its budget increase by $100 million, when taking into account the automatic transfer of funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund.
Of particular note, the bill dedicates more than $45 million for AHRQ’s investigator initiated research grants. AcademyHealth for several years has advocated for a more balanced research portfolio at AHRQ—both what is funded, and how. We’re pleased that the omnibus will help us move closer toward that goal, despite consistent attempts by the administration to cut funding for new and competing grants at the agency.
AcademyHealth welcomes the omnibus for not only what it includes, but what it does not. The bill does not hinder health economics research at NIH, as last year’s continuing resolution did. Nor does it include language to restrict political science research at the National Science Foundation. And there is no mention of banning patient-centered outcomes research; troubling language that has popped up in draft spending bills of years past. AcademyHealth worked diligently with our partners in the social and behavioral science community to educate Members of Congress about the value of such research and the federal role in funding it, and the omnibus represents the fruits of these efforts.
For more information about funding levels for your specific priorities, please click here for a copy of the legislation, and click here for a copy of the explanatory statement (health is in Division H) that includes more specificity about the funding levels.
With the President’s FY 2015 budget expected on March 4, we embark on a new appropriations season in earnest. We will continue our efforts to educate policymakers about the value of health services research and its important place in the federal health research continuum. We kick off our annual campaign with a new report and events that commemorate AHRQ’s 15th anniversary, a “Hill Day” for members of our Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy, and a planning meeting with our Advocacy Interest Group at AcademyHealth’s National Health Policy Conference. We look forward to working with you and finding new and innovative ways to engage AcademyHealth members in our efforts.