The National Institutes of Health is getting a $1.1 billion boost in fiscal 2016 under a draft bill released this week by House lawmakers.
At a markup session held Wednesday, a House Appropriations subcommittee voted in favor of a draft HHS budget for fiscal year 2016 that allocates $71.3 billion for the agency, which includes $31.2 billion for NIH, as well as $7 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a $140 million increase over FY 2015. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration would see a bump in its budget by $23 million over FY 2015 to $3.6 billion.
“This legislation continues our efforts to reduce wasteful spending, to stop harmful and unnecessary regulations that kill jobs and impede economic growth, and to make wise investments in proven programs on behalf of the American taxpayer,” said House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky) in a statement.
While the boost would mark a reversal of more than a decade of flat and declining budgets for the NIH, a number of other agencies are slated to receive heavy cuts to their funding. The draft funding bill calls for the complete elimination of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which provides support on research regarding patient-centered outcomes. The agency had an annual budget of $440 million for fiscal year 2015.
Critics of AHRQ have argued that the agency's work is duplicative of research that can be done within other HHS entities. Supporters pointed out that AHRQ's work is distinctly different, and contended asking other agencies to do what AHRQ does would be counterproductive.
“NIH carries out basic research, CDC tracks diseases, AHRQ focuses on health systems,” said ranking subcommittee member Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) during the hearing. “This bill only shifts AHRQ's work to other agencies without providing the necessary funding to do the work.”
Other cuts proposed in the bill include a $299 million decrease for the Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees the allocation of federal grants to community health centers, as well as the 340B drug pricing program. The drug program gives health providers discounts on medications to treat low-income patients.
Healthcare research advocates expressed their concerns over the proposed elimination of AHRQ, with such organizations as Research!America, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Association for the Advancement of Science all speaking out against such a move.
“We have an aging population that is only going to add burdens to our healthcare system,” said Joanne Carney, director of AAAS' office of government relations. “So it is critical to have the scientific research that we can use to inform evidence-based policy making, and that is what AHRQ essentially does.”
The bill is scheduled for consideration during a full committee markup session June 24. If passed, the elimination of AHRQ would go into effect Oct. 1.