The primary agency responsible for investigating and reporting on the quality of health care delivery in the US is a step closer to being completely shut down, reported MedPage Today. The news “will not trend on Twitter, nor is it likely to make the front page of USA Today,” lamented Paul Wallace on Health Affairs Blog. “If this bomb goes off undetected, the nation will lose its greatest source for funding research on health-care quality, effectiveness, and patient safety,” wrote Jeffrey Lerner on Philly.com.
“The House Appropriations Committee has inserted a provision in a bill providing funding for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education that would zero out funding for the AHRQ, whose 2015 budget was $440 million,” reported MedPage Today. “A move by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) to restore the funding failed on a voice vote. The appropriations bill, which the committee approved Tuesday by a vote of 30-21, must be approved by the full House as well as the Senate; the AHRQ’s fate in the latter chamber is unclear.”
Political efforts were previously mounted in 2010 and again in 2012 to eliminate the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), reported MedPage Today. According to various sources, the AHRQ investigates issues related to patient safety, especially in hospital settings. It generates reports and creates guidelines revolving around cost and quality of health services, medical practice patterns, access to care, and treatment outcomes.
“AHRQ also disseminates research that identifies the root causes of threats to patient safety, provides information on the scope and impact of medical errors, and examines effective ways to make system-level changes to help prevent errors,” wrote Lerner in Philly.com in 2012 when the agency’s budget was last threatened. “To be sure, defunding AHRQ would cause havoc in medical research. About 42 percent of academic research organizations that are members of Academy Health, a leading umbrella group for research, report receiving funding from AHRQ, as does ECRI, where I work.”
AHRQ also supports the work of the US Preventive Services Task Force, which has reviewed the scientific evidence and repeatedly recommended against mass mental health screening, as previously reported in Mad in America.
“Assaults on health-services research raise a more fundamental question,” asked Lerner. “Why is objective information so threatening?”
House Committee Votes to Defund AHRQ (MedPage Today, June 24, 2015)
AHRQ And The Essential ‘Both/And’ Of Federal Investments In Medical Discoveries (Health Affairs Blog, June 29, 2015)
Keep health info coming (Philly.com, August 8, 2012)