House HHS appropriations bill slashes AHRQ funding, but supports NIH, rural health
The House Appropriations Committee approved the draft fiscal year 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education funding bill, which includes the budget for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In it, the House provides HHS with about $5.8 billion in funding -- almost $398 million less than fiscal year 2017. But while the bill supports the 21st Century Moonshot, rural healthcare and others, there are some noticeable funding reductions.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will receive only $300 million in discretionary funds or $24 million less than last year – despite a proposed amendment by Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California.
The agency has continued to lose funding over the last few years, despite its being the lead federal group focused on research on healthcare quality, costs and outcomes, along with patient safety.
Part of the argument for decreasing funding, proponents say, is that AHRQ's work is sometimes duplicative of research done in other parts of the government.
“It is in the nation’s interest to ensure [AHRQ's] work is being supported and managed effectively and efficiently, and in a way that avoids unnecessary duplication with other federal agencies and or the private sector,” the report stated.
Further, officials want AHRQ to work with the National Academy of Public Administration to make recommendations on how the government should "best manage this important research, including the optimal organizational location and means of avoiding unnecessary overlap with other stakeholders."
The report noted none of the funding is to go to patient-centered research, but rather the majority of the funds at about $70 million will be directed to patient safety research.
Surprisingly, the National Institutes of Health received a 3.2 percent increase to $35.2 billion. In the President’s initial proposal, he suggested slashing the budget by 22 percent or $7.5 billion in May. The bill also excluded it would cut two-thirds of NIH disbursement payments of the overhead on research costs.
The amount includes $496 million as part of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, like $300 million for the Cancer Moonshot Initiative.
Rural healthcare programs will continue to be a priority with $156,060,000 in funds. Specifically, telehealth receives $18.5 million, as the “committee recognizes the growing importance of telehealth in delivering high-quality healthcare to medically underserved communities in both rural and urban areas.”
The report also calls on HHS Secretary Tom Price to establish a “Telehealth Center of Excellence,” as a means to test the effectiveness of telehealth in urban and rural areas.