The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which had been threatened with having its budget in fiscal 2016 completely zeroed out by the House, has been given a new lease on life in a House-Senate budget deal.
The final fiscal year 2016 omnibus bill provides AHRQ with $334 million in budget authority in FY16, down from $364 million in FY15—a cut of about 8 percent. However, it is a far cry from the heavy budget cuts and even termination the agency had been facing.
The FY 2016 House Appropriations bill had called for the outright termination of AHRQ effective Oct. 1, 2015—which was the beginning of the new fiscal year—while the FY16 Senate Appropriations bill called for limiting AHRQ’s funding to $236 million, a 35 percent budget cut from the previous year.
“When considering the initially proposed 35 and 100 percent cuts in the Senate and House, respectively, this is a victory for evidence and research,” said AcademyHealth, a health services research association, which has been leading the charge to preserve AHRQ’s funding. “With this omnibus, Congress has acknowledged the significance of the full continuum of health research, ensuring that the discoveries of basic science are translated into treatments and cures—and, just as importantly—that the evidence exists to ensure those cures are actually delivered to patients in the most effective, reliable and efficient ways.”
Last month, 195 stakeholder groups—including AcademyHealth—sent letters to House and Senate appropriators voicing their concerns about AHRQ’s future and urging them to work together to enact sequestration relief and restore the agency’s budget authority to $364 million. The lobbying effort seems to have worked in so far as the omnibus bill continues to fund AHRQ at roughly 92 percent of its FY15 budget.
Nonetheless, AcademyHealth notes that with AHRQ’s total budget reduced by about 8 percent there will be decreased funding levels in AHRQ’s health IT and patient safety programs, as well as health services research, data and dissemination portfolios, although it is unsure at this time of the specific details.
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