Yesterday the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee released the language of its fiscal year (FY) 2018 spending bill.

The bill recommends $300 million in funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), $24 million below the FY 2017 level. AHRQ was included ‘as is,’ and not as a new institute under the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as was proposed in the president’s budget.

Although we are pleased to see a continued commitment to health research through the proposed $1.1 billion increase for NIH, we are deeply concerned about broader, annual cuts to the rest of the health research enterprise. In addition to AHRQ’s proposed cut, these include a proposed $200 million reduction for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and significant cuts to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and across other federal agencies.

We recognize that Congress is working under very real political and practical constraints, including the significant challenges imposed by the Budget Control Act and the resulting caps it placed on federal spending. However, we cannot expect to reap the rewards of continued increases at NIH without adequate funding for the full continuum of health research – placing as much an emphasis on the delivery of effective treatments for all patients as we place on discovery. Cuts to health services research like the one proposed in yesterday’s House Labor-HHS bill are unacceptable if we want to make the most of our investments in basic and clinical science.

As budget discussions for FY 2018 continue, AcademyHealth urges appropriators to do everything in their power to rectify the amount allocated to AHRQ and its life- and cost-saving health services research. While we understand times are tight, raising the budget caps and avoiding cuts that would otherwise be incurred by these critical health research entities and their functions will ultimately benefit those served by our nation’s health care system. We cannot compromise Americans’ health and health care in the name of shortsighted savings.

AcademyHealth implores appropriators to reflect on this budget and, as negotiations progress, to #SaveAHRQ and #SaveHSR. Our health care system will never reach its full potential without sufficiently investing in discovery, development, and delivery.

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