House Draft Legislation Kills Funding For Research That Could Help Save 100,000 Lives

Yesterday, House Republicans unveiled their proposed budget for the Departments of Labor, Health, and Human Services. One of its provisions “terminates” the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which was created under President Reagan to research which health care treatments are actually effective and hence which ones can be used to save the most lives, research that:

  • Reduces life threatening medical errors: According to Mary Woolley, President and CEO of Research!America, “[AHRQ] is addressing medical errors that kill more than 100,000 people a year” by funding research into how doctors can treat illnesses without risking serious mistakes.
  • Lowers rates of Pneumonia: AHRQ funded research developed a technique for reducing rates of ventilator-associated pneumonia, a “common cause of increased rates of patient illness and death,” by 70%. Pneumonia more broadly killed about 55,000 Americans in 2006 and kills about 1.4 million children per year worldwide.
  • Provides doctors with medical research: Kenny Lim, who directs Primary Care Health Policy Fellowship at Georgetown University School of Medicine, argues that AHRQ research on research effectiveness helps “a doctor like me make good choices about which treatment to give each patient” given that “there’s often little or no reliable information about whether a new drug is actually an improvement over existing therapies.”

AHRQ is also critical to addressing our health care spending crisis. The increasing cost of treatment is driving rising health care costs, which makes understanding what treatments can be used most effectively and cheaply in any given case critical to reigning in rising costs. Researching precisely that question is AHRQ’s bread-and-butter, which is why Lisa Simpson, President and CEO of AcademyHealth, calls the House bill “a devastating attack on health research funding at a time when this work is most critically needed” as AHRQ is “the very agency tasked with generating the evidence necessary to build a higher-quality, higher-value health care system for the American people.”

Ironically, the House celebrated the draft budget as a measure aimed at “protecting life.”