Healthcare Business News

Groups decry proposal to cut public-health funding, end AHRQ

By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: July 18, 2012 - 5:45 pm ET

Provider groups said a House-drafted budget bill for HHS next year targets the nation's most vulnerable people, as it proposes to cut public health funding and end the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The House Appropriations Committee's Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee on Wednesday voted 8-6 to approve the full committee's proposed budgets for those departments in the next fiscal year.

Introduced Tuesday, the legislation includes $68.3 billion for HHS in 2013 and defunds the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The bill also aims to terminate HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality as of Oct. 1. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) joined the five Democrats in opposing the measure, which still requires approval from the full committee.

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“AHRQ funding has supported the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center's Project ECHO, which remotely connects urban medical center disease experts with rural general practitioners and community health workers to care for the chronically ill and others who lack access to specialists,” Dr. Bruce Siegel, president and CEO of the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems (PDF), said in a statement. “Boston Medical Center's Project RED has re-engineered workflows to improve patient safety and decrease readmissions. This AHRQ-funded study is being replicated in organizations across the country,” he continued. “We must not let this misguided move against AHRQ set back efforts to improve the safety, quality and effectiveness of care.”

The American Public Health Association was similarly critical of the legislation and its cuts to programs such as the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“Public health agencies are already struggling to do more with less and provide basic health and prevention services,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the APHA, said in a statement. “This measure undercuts our efforts in communities across the country to promote health and prevent disease. The long-term medical and human costs will far outweigh any short-term savings.”

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