July 08, 2019

Senators Warren and Blumenthal Request Information About Oversight of Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs)

Reports suggest patients in need may not receive organs because of systemic failures

Washington, DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) today sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) about troubling reports of deficiencies in the U.S. organ procurement network. 
Over 100,000 Americans are on a wait list for an organ transplant, and critical shortages in organs available for donation result in roughly 22 deaths per day among patients waiting for life-saving transplants. Reports suggest that because of systemic failures in the organ procurement organization (OPO) network, which is made up of the 58 organizations responsible for the acquisition and delivery of organs, nearly 28,000 organs per year are not delivered to patients in need.
Reports have also revealed that self-reported data on OPO performance is deeply flawed—hindering the government’s ability to conduct accurate and effective oversight. CMS has the authority to decertify these underperforming organizations but has failed to do so for 20 years. Earlier this year, the Trump Administration placed a rule on the Unified Agenda that would “propose changes to the standards used to evaluate OPOs and ensure proper data on available organs and transplants is collected.”  
“Recent reports suggest that OPOs, which are tasked with acquiring and distributing organs for donation, are systemically underperforming, resulting in long wait lists and thousands of deaths each year,” the senators wrote. “In light of these reports, and the Administration’s recent decision to place rulemaking regarding OPO metrics on the Unified Agenda, we request additional information on the steps HHS is taking to update OPO performance metrics.”
The senators’ letter requests a briefing on the agencies’ efforts to improve OPO performance metrics and the organ procurement network as a whole no later than July 22, 2019.