(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) today joined U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) and more than 30 Members of Congress in urging Congressional leadership to include $71 million in funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in the next COVID-19 relief package. This funding would give 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. AHRQ is the country’s sole federal agency focused on generating research to advance health care delivery system efficiency.

“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,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MS) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). A similar letter was sent to House leadership. “This research and focus makes AHRQ indispensable in our efforts to respond to, understand, and mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in our healthcare system. No other HHS agency is currently engaged in evaluating the health care sector’s response to this pandemic.”

Among other priorities, the Members of Congress emphasized the need to have AHRQ evaluate telehealth obstacles for vulnerable populations, as well as telehealth privacy concerns, deficiencies in the supply chain resulting in ventilator and personal protective equipment shortages, and care delivery, planning, and capacity shortfalls.

The Senate letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Michael Bennet (D-CO). The House of Representatives letter was also signed by U.S. Representatives Betty McCollum (D-MN), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), David Trone (D-MD), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Val Demings (D-FL), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), Bill Foster (D-IL), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Terri A. Sewell (D-AL), Katie Porter (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Danny Davis (D-IL), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), and John Yarmuth (D-KY).

The full text of the letter to Senate leadership is available here. The full text of the letter to House leadership is available here.