Continued Vigilance Required to Protect Our Field from Further Cuts

On July 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of FY 2014 (Labor-HHS)—and AcademyHealth has made its support known. The Senate offers funding increases across the health research agencies, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The bill reflects many of AcademyHealth’s priorities—including increased funding for AHRQ’s investigator initiated research grants—and the need for better coordination of health services research across the health research agencies. The Committee shares our concerns about the decline in AHRQ’s training portfolio, and directs the agency to report on its training activities in its budget request for FY 2015. The House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education subcommittee plans to markup its appropriations bill this Thursday, July 25.  [UPDATE 7/24: The House postponed markup on Wednesday, July 24. No new date has been announced.] We expect news from the House will be less positive and we are bracing for the worst. All signs indicate the bill will closely resemble that of last year—termination of AHRQ, prohibitions on health economics at NIH and PCOR at HHS, repeal of the Affordable Care Act (and with it, PCORI), etc. We will update the membership when we know more. It is important to note—with the highs in the Senate and the expected lows in the House—that we do not expect to see an actual health spending bill for FY 2014. The vastly different approaches to appropriations taken by the chambers—a $91 billion divide to reconcile and the continued controversy surrounding Affordable Care Act funding—make a continuing resolution (CR) for Labor-HHS inevitable. In addition, sequestration’s cuts to health research are likely to continue for FY 2014 and the foreseeable future without a bipartisan agreement to replace it. With the dysfunction in Washington, it’s easy to feel as if all hope is lost and there’s nothing you can do. But it’s more important than ever that you make your voice heard to share both appreciation when policymakers get it right, and frustration when they get it wrong. With fierce competition for sparse research resources, we must be vigilant in educating policymakers about health services research and its value. They already hear plenty from AcademyHealth—but they want, and need, to hear from YOU! We’ve made it quick and easy for you to get involved. Just follow these three simple steps:
  1. Click here to visit our appropriations web page and get the latest on the status of spending legislation.
  2. Click here to urge your Senators to support the increases for health services research in the Labor-HHS bill. (We expect to post a widget for the House bill on Friday)
  3. Click here to join AcademyHealth’s Advocacy Interest Group and learn how to more effectively advocate for your work.
  Looking for other ways to get even more involved in our advocacy efforts? Please contact Kristin Rosengren, AcademyHealth’s Senior Director of Strategic Communications.   Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect changes in the House schedule.