Trump Administration Pushes to Improve Organ Transplants

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The White House proposed new rules on Tuesday that could make thousands more healthy replacement organs available to those in need.

Every day, about 33 people die waiting for the organ transplants that might have saved their lives. Over 114,000 patients are on a list that requires waiting and hoping for a match to come along when it is finally their turn. And while roughly 36,000 organs do make their way to recipients each year, the Trump administration believes it can do better.

“Our proposals, if finalized, would increase the number of organs by completely and totally overhauling the organ procurement system,” said Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. New rules would primarily target the 58 organ procurement organizations (OPOs), enforcing higher levels of accountability.

In addition, they would increase payments to living donors and increase the frequency of organization evaluations from every four years to an annual review. “At the end of each recertification cycle, poor performing OPOs could be decertified, but they’d be replaced by a better performing one,” explained Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The expected result? About 6,000 more lifesaving organs available every year.

“This is a bold step that will make a big difference in the lives of our patients who are on the waiting list,” said Dr. Seth Karp, Vanderbilt University’s transplant chief. “It could eliminate the waiting list for lungs, saving about 400 lives and make a real impact on the list of people dying waiting for organs.”

As it stands, the procurement organizations are allowed to assess their own performance and may easily manipulate their rate of healthy organ recovery. If these rules were already in place, officials say, dozens of the aforementioned OPOs would be out of compliance.

Furthermore, the reimbursement process for donating an organ is a pittance that frequently fails to offer adequate support to the life-long sacrifice of a living donor. Aside from the initial reimbursement, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the Trump administration wants to provide supplementary support through child and elder care, as well as other costs.

“We don’t believe their financial situation should limit their generosity,” he said. Azar has a personal investment in the matter: His father is a kidney recipient, alive because of such goodwill.

The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations’ CEO, Kelly Ranum, asserted that the measures would be readily accepted. “An independent, verifiable metric for evaluating OPO performance can be an important tool, helping to identify potential opportunities for growth in OPOs’ quest for continual improvement,” Ranum said.

Transplant system accountability organization co-founder Greg Segal of “Organize” was a little more straightforward: “OPO industry has been failing across the board for decades, and it’s great to see the government finally step up and take the side of patients,” he said. “Today’s rule is a big step toward accountability.”

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