December 11, 2020

Gillibrand, Colleagues Push To Boost Health Care System Research Funding Amid Proposed Drastic Cuts

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined her colleagues in urging Senate leadership to include at least $471 million in funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in the omnibus spending bill. The most recent funding package for FY2021, unveiled by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, includes a drastic 24 percent cut for the sole federal agency focused on generating research to advance health care delivery system efficiency, a function critical to our country’s response to pandemics like COVID-19. Providing the agency with $471 million would restore its funding to 2010 levels, giving AHRQ the capacity to evaluate the U.S. health care system’s response to the pandemic, pinpoint shortcomings, and improve national preparedness for future crises.

“Every dollar invested in the Agency on Healthcare Research and Quality helps save American lives,” said Senator Gillibrand. “AHRQ has already demonstrated their importance by publishing quality and reliable research on telehealth and vaccine efficacy in the COVID-19 era—pulling any funding from this agency is a nonstarter. I will continue fighting for this vital funding to get us through this pandemic, and ensure that our country is prepared for any future public health crises.”

Gillibrand has been a vocal champion of increased funding for New York’s health care system. On December 10, she sent a letter to congressional leadership urging them to pass comprehensive COVID-19 response legislation that includes funding for hospitals, healthcare workers, vaccine distribution, PPE, and testing.

Led by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). 

Read the text of the letter here or below.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Chairman Blunt, and Ranking Member Murray,

We write today to reiterate the urgent need for increased funding for the Agency on Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in Fiscal Year 2021. In March, many of us wrote you with the request of $471 million, equal to the agency’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 appropriation. Unfortunately, the most recent Senate Labor Health and Human Services (Labor-HHS) package included a 24% cut for AHRQ. AHRQ is an essential element of the nation’s health care ecosystem, charged with improving the quality and delivery of health care, and a critical part of our nation’s COVID-19 response. As such, we ask that you reconsider this proposed cut and include at least $471 million in funding for AHRQ. 

AHRQ is the only federal agency whose sole focus is to generate reliable research on how to deliver the highest quality care, at the greatest value, with the best outcomes to all patients. It is the only agency that funds research on the “real-world” patient—the one who doesn’t have diabetes alone, for example, but also has cardiovascular disease and renal disease; or the patient who has cancer, as well as heart disease. AHRQ-funded research and databases allow us to understand where waste, inefficiencies, and gaps exist within the health care system, and allows patients, payers, providers, and others to harness American innovation and make the health care system safer, more efficient, and more effective.

Unfortunately, as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, AHRQ’s work has never been more relevant or more necessary. Americans with multiple chronic conditions are at a greater risk of developing COVID-19, and as our healthcare heroes and hospitals continue to be stretched thin by a surge of COVID-19 cases, we must look for ways to make our health care system as efficient as possible. Furthermore, AHRQ, and AHRQ alone, has the tools to study our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that those findings are reflected in pandemic responses now and in the future. AHRQ has already demonstrated their strength in newly published research on telehealth and vaccine efficacy in the COVID-19 era. 

It is critical that AHRQ receive the necessary funding to continue their work, during the pandemic and beyond. Every dollar we invest in AHRQ ensures that our health care system will continue to improve in efficiency and outcomes. We urge you to heed the call of public health experts and researchers in adequately funding AHRQ.

Sincerely,