In This Issue...

House Appropriations Panel Votes to Eliminate AHRQ and Cut NCS Spending

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies recently voted to approve its fiscal year (FY) 2013 appropriations bill for the agencies under its jurisdiction. The proposal cuts nearly $9 billion from the president’s budget request.

The proposed cuts include:

  • Eliminating funds for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the lead federal agency on comparative effectiveness research and reducing medical errors over the past few years;
  • Reducing funding for the NIH National Children’s Study from $193 million to $175 million ($10 million more than the Administration requested for next year); and
  • Prohibiting the use of funds by the Department of Health and Human Services for patient-centered outcomes research.

AACC has written to the full Committee opposing cuts in AHRQ and NCS funding. A copy of the subcommittee bill is available on the panel’s Web site.

Legislation Introduced to Fix PT Referral Problem

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY) recently introduced legislation, “Taking Essential Steps for Testing Act of 2012,” S.3391 and H.R.6118, respectively, to address a longstanding issue regarding the referral of proficiency testing (PT) specimens under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA’88). Currently, the statute requires that a laboratory referring a PT specimen to an outside laboratory for analysis lose its CLIA certificate for at least one year -- even if the referral was inadvertent. As a consequence of this revocation, the laboratory director cannot direct a clinical laboratory for two years and the owner cannot own or operate a laboratory for the same period. These bills would modify the CLIA statute to give the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees CLIA’88, the flexibility to impose lesser sanctions if the referral was in error. A copy of the legislation is available on the congressional Web site, THOMAS, here.

AHRQ Seeks Input on Using IT to Measure Quality of Health Care

On July 20th, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) issued a Federal Register Notice of Request for Information (RFI) (FR pages 42738-42740) seeking public input on the use of health information technology (IT) to generate health care quality measures. “AHRQ is seeking information on the building blocks of health IT-enabled quality measurement in terms of perspectives, practicalities, and priorities.” A copy of the notice is available on the FR Web site. The agency is accepting comments through August 20th.