tions in funding. Multiyear budget planning for these vital agencies would be helpful. Serious concerns also have been raised about the adequacy of funding of HHS science agencies, with the news media reporting that recent budget cuts threaten gains in the public’s health (Fox, 2008; Harris, 2008; Trapp, 2008).
Since 2002, AHRQ has not had its own separate budget allocation, but receives funds from other PHS agencies through a PHS evaluation set-aside. This has left the agency’s budget an order-of-magnitude smaller than every other major PHS agency except FDA, whose budget is still five times that of AHRQ.6 AHRQ’s mission is to support, conduct, and disseminate research that improves access to care and the outcomes, quality, cost, and utilization of health care services—in other words, to increase the value of the health care services Americans receive. Research projects in AHRQ’s diverse portfolio investigate nearly every aspect of the U.S. health care system, and AHRQ works with both the public and the private sectors to conduct and sponsor research and translate its research findings into improved clinical practice. The agency also attempts to refine decision-making techniques and practices, such as comparative effectiveness studies and evidence-based medicine.
To make progress in developing and applying critical analytic tools to today’s health care organization, delivery, and financing challenges, AHRQ requires a more reliable and viable funding stream. Giving AHRQ an independent budget, adequate to its task, is essential to achieving the accountability and the value-based health system the committee envisions.
Congress should allocate sufficient, predictable funding for NIH, CDC, FDA, and AHRQ in order to preserve and enhance these agencies’ scientific missions. Congress should also establish a specific budget line for AHRQ that is independent of appropriations to other HHS agencies.