WASHINGTON – A coalition of congressional leaders from the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform today commended the Biden Administration for finalizing a rule to reform the organ procurement system in the United States, and encouraged the administration to explore additional ways to accelerate the accountability of organ procurement organizations (OPOs).
The letter, sent to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure was signed by Senate Finance Committee member Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.); and Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.); House Committee on Oversight and Reform (COR) Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.); House COR Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee Chair Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Ranking Member Michael Cloud (R-Texas.); and House COR Member Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-Calif.).
“This Final Rule marks a critical first step toward ensuring greater accountability of all 57 OPOs in the United States,” the members wrote, however, “The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the need for organs now and creating an urgent health equity issue, as communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the failures of the current organ donation system and the effects of COVID-19.”
The Final Rule takes long overdue steps to hold OPOs accountable, which marks critical progress towards improving the organ transplant system. GAO found that the rule would “increase donation rates and organ transplantation rates by replacing the current outcome measures with new transparent, reliable, and objective outcome measures” and increase competition for control of open organ donation service areas.
According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), this rule will save more than 7,000 lives every year. However, in its current form, the Final Rule would not provide for the decertification of failing OPOs until calendar year 2026. These reforms also have urgent implications for health equity, as failures of the current organ donation system disproportionately hurt patients of color.
The members are pushing the administration to explore additional ways to accelerate the impact of the rule as quickly as possible, “The need to act has only increased over the last 18 months. Some experts project a dramatic increase in the demand for transplants as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic because the virus can cause organ failure in survivors, particularly damage to the kidneys,” the members wrote. “In light of this urgent need, we are concerned about the protracted timeline for enforcement of the OPO rule, which currently does not allow for the decertification of failing OPOs until calendar year 2026. We thank the administration for moving forward with this rule, and ask you to consider additional ways to accelerate its impact to put patients’ interests first, saves lives and reduce racial health disparities.”
The full letter can be found here.