AcademyHealth is extremely disappointed in the short-sighted and devastating 25 percent cut to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) proposed in the Senate’s fiscal year 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) spending bill.
The research, resources, tools, and datasets produced by AHRQ provide a critical public service, improving the safety and quality of health care Americans receive and helping us better understand how to make our health care system more effective and efficient. There is a sad irony in these cuts coming only a day after the first World Patient Safety Day – an event that underscores just how necessary this work is to patients and the people and systems devoted to their care.
As the professional home for individuals and organizations that produce and use health services research to make health care less complex and costly, we question the decision to cut health services research funding at a time when this work is most critically needed by patients, health care providers, and policymakers alike. We urge the Senate to revisit this issue and act to ensure sufficient and stable funding for AHRQ as it works with the House to finalize spending bills this fall.
We understand and appreciate the Committee’s efforts to allocate scarce funds for the greatest impact, a position made all the more challenging given current budget limits. Yet, the fact remains that our nation currently spends $3 trillion annually on health care – the largest share of which lies in federal purchases through Medicare, Medicaid, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan, insurance exchanges, TRICARE, and veterans’ health care. In such an environment, it is simply counter-productive to cut funding for the only federal agency charged with identifying, testing, and promoting strategies that lead to higher-quality health care and addressing health care costs system-wide. This year’s potential cuts are potentially even more damaging given the pressing need to reauthorize the soon expiring Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute and its Trust Fund, which supports a quarter of AHRQ’s current program level budget.
Improving the health of Americans – whether by incentivizing healthy behaviors, identifying and addressing the underlying causes of illness, or developing new and innovative cures to devastating diseases and chronic conditions – requires a balanced investment in the full continuum of health research. We cannot realize the true potential of biomedical innovations without reliable evidence as to how to organize, deliver and pay for those discoveries in the real world. AHRQ-funded health services research provides those answers. We need discovery, development and delivery science investments.
AHRQ plays a central, irreplaceable role in making the care we and our loved ones receive safer and more effective. Its research fuels innovation and improves quality, identifies waste, and enhances efficiency in the health care system. Put simply, evidence matters, and health services research provides the best possible insights into solving the complex problems facing our $3 trillion health care industry.
AcademyHealth and its thousands of members and partners stand ready, as always, to champion AHRQ and health services research, and make clear the risks of underinvestment.