The health services research community experienced a “win” of sorts this week following the release of the Senate’s fiscal year 2018 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS), which proposed level funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The summary of the bill is on the Labor-HHS minority website, and the report language is posted here. The Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations subcommittee approved the bipartisan spending bill on Wednesday morning, and the full committee approved the bill on Thursday.

Unlike the House Labor-HHS fiscal 2018 bill released this July, which proposed to reduce AHRQ funding by $24 million, the Senate’s bill maintains the agency’s overall funding level of $324 million and holds its various budget lines flat. In the report language, the Committee also reiterates its support for investigator initiated research and, in another section, includes a prohibition on capping facilities and administrative costs at 10 percent. All of which sends a positive signal to the health services research community.

AcademyHealth congratulates our colleagues in the Senate for putting together a bipartisan bill that recognizes the value of health services research and its proven impact on health and healthcare. Especially in this tumultuous political environment, where appropriators are working under austere spending caps and competing priorities, we are encouraged to see a shared pledge to fund the full research continuum – from discovery and development to delivery.

As appropriators work to finalize spending legislation for fiscal year 2018 and beyond, we urge them to continue to take a holistic approach to federal funding for health and health care research, including health services research, the evidence that shows us every day how to create a better health care system that works for all Americans.

While today’s Committee markup is encouraging, we also acknowledge that Congress is balancing a number of significant challenges, and the work of FY2018 appropriations has only just begun. In fact, the levels proposed by the Senate appropriators can only become a reality if Congress and the White House also work together to raise current budget caps.

AcademyHealth will continue to monitor the process closely, and we encourage members to continue to advocate for their work and the field.