The not-for-profit organization is operating in accordance with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the government watchdog agency concluded. PCORI was established under the federal healthcare law to promote research into how conditions and diseases can be most effectively diagnosed and treated. The ACA established five research priorities for the institute, including improving dissemination of research and addressing healthcare disparities.
PCORI has announced at least two other rounds of funding since the GAO study was concluded. Last month, it awarded grants for five comparative-effectiveness studies looking at treatment models for cancer, back pain and stroke. And in December, PCORI announced $82.7 million in grants to clinical research networks with access to the data of a million or more patients.
That brings total commitments above $800 million. The not-for-profit group expects to award $2.6 billion in grants by the end of 2019.
PCORI is governed by a 21-member board and employed 153 staff members as of September. The organization has incurred a total of $235 million in administrative costs through fiscal 2014. Administrative expenses accounted for at least 20% of the organization's total budget in 2012 and 2013, the GAO found. But the percentage of overhead is expected to drop to less than 10% during the current fiscal year.
The GAO found that some stakeholders interviewed about the institute expressed concern that PCORI's research priorities are too broad. “While PCORI officials acknowledged that many of the institute's initial funding announcements were broad in that they did not identify specific topics, they noted that they are in the process of increasing the proportion of funding that goes to specific research topics,” the report states.
The GAO assessment of PCORI was mandated by the Affordable Care Act. The watchdog agency is required to issue a second report on its activities by 2018.
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