Organ procurement trade group loses members as US House committee begins investigation


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Six transplant donor groups parted ways with their national trade association at the start of a U.S. House-led hearing earlier this month into whether the association was lobbying against new donor performance requirements .

The House Oversight and Reform Commission subcommittee on economic and consumer policy had requested records ahead of the May 4 hearing from the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) and 11 of the 57 Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) that have federal contracts and are members of AOPO.

Steve Miller

“[We] received a letter from the House Oversight Subcommittee requesting documents and information about AOPO’s activities with respect to the proposed settlement,” Steve Miller, CEO of AOPO, told Healio Nephrology. “AOPO has been very cooperative with the subcommittee, responding to each of its requests and producing thousands of pages of documents, as well as agreeing to testify at the hearing.”

The six OPOs who announced at the hearing that they were leaving the AOPO included the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, Life Connection of Ohio, Mid-America Transplant, LiveOnNY, OurLegacy and Southwest Transplant Alliance.

Matthew Wadsworth, The CEO of Life Connection of Ohio, told Healio Nephrology that OPOs leaving AOPO “are reallocating assets to continuous performance improvement through our innovation cohort with the Federation of American Scientists.

“I didn’t think it was right to spend taxpayers’ money on lobbying efforts [by AOPO] against increased accountability and transparency,” Wadsworth said.

In a press release, Life Connection of Ohio said the newly released regulations “have received broad support from bipartisan congressional offices, patient advocates, and health equity leaders…With the recent AOPO’s transition from a 501(c)(3) to a 501(c)(6) organization, its lobbying efforts against these regulations stand in contrast not only to Life Connection of Ohio’s position, but also to federally designated roles assigned to OPOs, including prioritization of patient outcomes.

Miller told Healio Nephrology that despite irregularities in OPO performance, the organ donation effort in the United States is one of the most successful in the world.

“AOPO has long supported reform to create new and improved measures that evaluate OPO performance to hold OPOs accountable for their role in the donation and transplantation process,” Miller wrote. “We agree that there is room for improvement in OPO’s performance; however, the donation and transplantation system in the United States remains the most successful in the world.

New regulations

The new regulations are part of Advancing American Kidney Health, an initiative launched in 2019 to improve care for patients with kidney disease. Announcing the final rule in November 2020 for OPOs, then HHS Secretary Alex Azar II said, “There are few interventions more transformative to a person’s health than an organ transplant, yet thousands of Americans are denied this life-saving opportunity each year by a failing system. By making overdue reforms to hold organ procurement organizations accountable, we are giving thousands of Americans awaiting organ transplants a chance to live better, longer and healthier lives,” he said. he declares.

Reforms include 12-month reviews of OPO’s performance in meeting donor procurement targets and publicly available rankings. Additionally, changes have been made to how the donation rate is measured and how the transplant rate is measured. OPOs will be divided into three tiers based on performance; those in the lowest tier will be decertified if they do not improve their donor rate, as per regulations.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi

Joe Ferreira

HHS estimates the changes could increase the number of organs available for transplant by 5,600 per year and the annual number of transplants performed could increase from about 33,000 to 41,000 by 2026.

Subcommittee hearing

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., The chairman of the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, which led the May 4 hearing, said in a statement, “There is an urgent need to reform the organ transplant system to achieve more organs for waiting, sick and dying patients. For too long OPOs have faced no outside incentive to perform, escaped public scrutiny, refused to reveal data showing their success and failure; and hidden behind a wall of jargon and obfuscation. For patients who are suffering, I will not let OPOs continue to fail them. Saving lives is above politics and OPO reform is a bipartisan issue.

During the interrogation, Joe Ferreira, President and CEO of the Nevada Donor Network’s AOPO, admitted during the hearing that his OPO pays for subscriptions to the Las Vegas Raiders professional football team and the Las Vegas hockey team. Golden Knights.

However, Ferreira said the Nevada OPO, which was not investigated by the committee and allocated 504 organs for transplantation in 2020 – enough to qualify it as a top OPO under the new CMS regulations – used the tickets for donor stakeholder relations and development. and were purchased by other sources of funding, including donations and other fundraising efforts.

Ferreira told lawmakers during the hearing that AOPO recently embarked on a campaign that will increase procurement to 50,000 organs per year.

“We are proud of what the OPO community has accomplished,” said Ferreira. “At the same time, we can and will do better.”

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