Budget Brief: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

The budget plan President Obama sent to Congress on February 13, proposes $409 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the federal government’s lead agency for health services research—research to help improve health care quality, safety, efficiency, and access.

This president’s budget request employs creative budgeting. What appears to be a funding increase on its face is actually a cut.

The president requests $334 million for AHRQ’s base, discretionary budget, a 9½ percent cut below this year’s funding and 16 percent below the agency’s high-water mark in 2010. Cuts to AHRQ’s basic budget are replaced by transfers from other programs, namely the Prevention and Public Health Fund ($12 million for the US Preventive Services Task Force) and a $62 million transfer from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Yet, these funds are not interchangeable, nor were they intended to be.

The reduction is directly linked to the establishment of the new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) created by the Affordable Care Act. As the budget documents note, “ACA provided a mandatory stream of funding specifically for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and AHRQ to disseminate research findings and to build research and data capacity for PCHR.”

(Details of AHRQ’s budget are available at http://www.ahrq.gov/about/cj2013/cj2013.pdf.)

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