Earlier this week the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Subcommittee took up its spending bill for fiscal year (FY) 2017, which was marked up today by the full Appropriations Committee.

Given Labor-HHS’s jurisdiction over so much of the health research enterprise, AcademyHealth has been carefully monitoring activity surrounding this bill – namely, what it means for health services research and, in particular, for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which last year was proposed for termination by the House Appropriations Committee and for a 35 percent reduction in budget by the Senate.

Following today’s markup, we’ve learned that the Senate Labor-HHS Subcommittee has proposed a $324 million allocation for AHRQ, a $10 million cut from the current level. This is a $40 million reduction from AHRQ’s $364 million in budget authority in FY15. The bill also includes a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as significant increases for efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and antibiotic resistance. Learn more here.

While funding for all research is crucial, AcademyHealth is disappointed to see yet another cut to AHRQ’s already small budget. The work of AHRQ is uniquely positioned to help the nation address the rising costs of health care and to transform how we approach health and health care in this country. Every cut reduces our capacity to ensure patient safety, address waste and inefficiency, and ensure access to groundbreaking treatments and prevention. However, we also recognize that Congress is under extreme pressure to fund competing priorities whilst doing its best to keep the federal budget in check—these are difficult choices made more necessary by the austere spending caps presently in place.

We hope that when the House Labor-HHS Subcommittee marks up its own spending bill they will remember AHRQ’s mission to find savings in care and enhance efficiency, affordability, safety, and accessibility, and will consequently act to preserve full funding for this critical agency.

AcademyHealth will be following appropriations developments in the House and Senate closely, and stands ready to act on behalf of our members and the field. As we look to the future, we look not only to save AHRQ, but to save the critical health services research that stands to drastically and positively shape the trajectory of U.S. health care.

View the full bill here.

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