AHRQ gets big show of support on Capitol Hill

'Pennywise and pound foolish'
By Mike Miliard
10:09 AM
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Capitol Hill

Nearly 200 medical associations, providers and other healthcare groups have implored the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to preserve support for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which has been threatened with defunding.

[See also: House draft budget would eliminate AHRQ]

The proposed termination of AHRQ by the House Appropriations Committee – and the proposed 35 percent cut to its base budget by the Senate Appropriations Committee – has left the 195 groups that signed the two letters to both chambers "very concerned," they write.

"We understand lawmakers face difficult choices in funding myriad priorities with increasingly limited resources, but deep cuts to AHRQ in the current fiscal environment are pennywise and pound foolish," according to the letters, which were signed by the American Hospital Association, HIMSS, American College of Physicians, Yale, Columbia University Medical Center, UPMC and dozens of others leading groups.

[See also: AHRQ funds project to reduce heart failure readmissions]

"We hope Congress will work together to enact sequestration relief and restore AHRQ's budget authority to $364 million," they wrote. "AHRQ is the only federal research agency with the sole purpose of producing evidence to make health care safer; of higher quality; more accessible, equitable, and affordable; and to ensure that the evidence is understood and used."

AHRQ's research  helps Americans "get their money's worth," when it comes to healthcare, according to the letter. "We need more of it, not less."

Cutting AHRQ's relatively small budget "takes our country in the wrong direction," the groups argue. "Our nation spends $3 trillion annually on healthcare – the largest share of which are federal purchases through Medicare, Medicaid, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan, insurance exchanges, TRICARE, and veterans' health care. Americans deserve reliable information on how to deliver the best possible care, at the greatest value, with the best outcomes. AHRQ-funded health services research provides those answers."

The letter concluded: "Health services research – through AHRQ – needs a dedicated funding stream. It's the optimal way to ensure the generation of evidence and data to make the practice of health care safer, more effective and more affordable for all Americans."

Read the letters here and here.