July 28, 2023

Warren, Wyden, Lawmakers Applaud Senate Passage of Bill Reforming Organ Transplant System

Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Improve Accountability for Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Now Heads to President’s Desk for Signature

Text of Bill (PDF) | Bill Summary (PDF) | Section-by-Section (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) applauded the Senate’s passage of the Securing the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Act. The bill gives the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) statutory authority to improve the management of the organ transplantation system, including by breaking up the monopoly contract to manage the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). The bill now heads to the president’s desk for signature, roughly two months before the current OPTN contract is set to expire on September 30, 2023. 

“Transplant patients across the country are suffering because one organization has a monopoly over the entire organ transplant system – and it has failed spectacularly,” said Senator Warren. “Patients and their families deserve a lifesaving transplant system that works, and this bipartisan bill will deliver by giving the Biden administration the tools it needs to break up the OPTN contract and ensure real accountability.”  

“Today is a monumental day in the effort to improve the organ donation and transplantation system for Americans and their families who are counting on transplants to save their lives,” said Senator Wyden. “With congressional passage of our legislation, the Biden Administration will have the tools it has asked for to implement a comprehensive modernization of the OPTN contracting process. I look forward to continuing my work to improve this system so more Americans can receive lifesaving transplants.” 

“Today’s bill passage is proof that bipartisanship still works in Washington,” said Senator Grassley. “I’ve been grateful to have support from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle since I first began investigating the organ industry in 2005. At long last, Congress has succeeded in untangling years of deadly errors in the organ industry to give patients a better shot at lifesaving care and root out corruption. Americans in need of organ donations, especially rural residents and people of color, will be greatly benefited by these changes.” 

“Last week, I held a hearing in the Senate Finance Health Care Subcommittee that highlighted the devastating failures of the current U.S. transplant system that impact thousands of patients. The message was clear: we urgently need oversight, reform, and transparency,” said Senator Cardin. “Passing the Securing the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Act is another step towards improving the OPTN so more patients can access transplants safely and efficiently. As 17 people die each day under the current system, Congress will not accept mismanagement when lives are at stake.”

“This is an important day for thousands of Americans who are in need of life-saving transplants,” said Senator Young. “The Securing the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Act includes necessary reforms that will help ensure accountability and transformation in the organ donation and transplant system. This bipartisan bill will save lives, and I look forward to it being swiftly signed into law.”

“The management of the U.S. organ transplant system needs serious reform,” said Senator Cassidy. “Breaking up this monopoly will increase competition, save lives and improve the system. Glad to see our legislation pass Congress and look forward to it becoming law.”

The bill would remove barriers in OPTN contracting and give the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) statutory authority to improve management of the organ transplantation system in the U.S. As the current OPTN contract is set to expire, the new contract procurement process must begin this fall, making the proposed changes urgent and timely for HRSA to make meaningful reforms. Earlier this week, the House of Representatives passed the legislation. In March, HRSA launched an initiative to modernize the OPTN so it better serves patients and families. 

Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) also sponsored the bill. 

Senator Warren has led efforts to reform the organ transplant system and hold the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) accountable for its consistent mismanagement and underperformance: 

  • In July 2023, at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Warren called on Congress to pass legislation to improve the organ transplant system, protect patients, and hold UNOS accountable for its failures. 
  • In August 2022, at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Warren blasted the CEO of UNOS for the organization’s failure, saying “You should lose this contract. You should not be allowed anywhere near the organ transplant system in this country. And if you try to interfere with the process of turning the contract over to someone who could actually do the job, you should be held accountable for that. There are a whole lot of reforms that are needed in this system.” 
  • In June 2019, Senators Warren and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services  and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, requesting information about oversight of the organ transplant system after troubling reports of deficiencies in the U.S. organ procurement network.