Marshall Leads Bipartisan Letter to HHS Against New Organ Transplant Rule
WASHINGTON D.C.- Representatives Marshall, M.D., Blumenauer (D-OR), Dingell (D-MI), and Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN), led a bipartisan letter urging the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to immediately stop a misguided liver transplant allocation change from going into effect on April 30th.
In December 2018, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) adopted a new national liver distribution policy that would remove local and regional prioritization from the transplant allocation process, stripping the existing process that arranged for liver transplants to be considered locally first, then regionally, and finally, nationally.
“This ill-advised policy won’t fix the real problem which is underperforming Organ Procurement Organization,” Rep. Marshall (R-KS) said. “What this policy will actually do is redistribute organs donated by Kansans to big cities and states with larger populations. In result, Kansans in need of a transplant will face longer wait times and increased costs.”
Initially, the geographic boundaries were put in place so that those in low-income or low populated areas weren’t overlooked when competing with larger cities.
“This dangerous and unfair policy puts the most vulnerable communities at risk in Oregon and around the country,” Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) said. “A person’s likelihood of getting a life-saving liver transplant should not be determined by their area code. We must ensure that HHS is developing fair and just policies for organ donation so that everyone has an equal opportunity to receive healthy organs.”
“Proposed changes to the liver transplant allocation policies stand to hurt Michigan,”Rep. Dingell (D-MI) said. “Removing regional boundaries could mean that an organ one town over gets sent across the country. Two-thirds of Michiganders have signed up to donate organs, and we have some of the nation’s leading transplant hospitals and doctors. Policy changes shouldn’t send that out of state. We are a community and help each other.”
While policymakers understand and want every patient to have quick access to liver transplants, the OPTN must focus on those Organ Procurement Organizations (OPO) that are failing their communities and look to the successes of high performing OPOs like the Midwest Transplant Network (MTN). Covering Kansas and part of Missouri, the MTN has built strong relationships within their communities and is consistently one of the highest performing OPOs in the country.
“Kansas could lose 45 percent of liver donations if this policy is implemented, not to mention the lives that’d be lost due to the OPTN policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The reality is that patients from my home state would pay the cost,” Rep. Marshall (R-KS) said. “We’re calling on HHS to find a new policy that achieves the best use of donated organs for all communities, while also holding OPOs accountable to ensure that they can best serve transplant patients in their designated areas.”
Kansas has been extremely successful in reducing waitlists through proactive organ procurement and innovative transplant techniques under the current model. In 2018, OPOs in Kansas performed well above the national average on several metrics, and today around 75 percent of Kansas residents are on the organ donor registry.
“While the new policy adopted by the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network for the distribution and allocation of liver transplants was well intended, the consequences will be devastating for Hoosiers and other Americans living in rural regions of our nation,” Dr. Bucshon (R-IN) said. “The underlying problem of less efficient organ procurement regions should be addressed rather than removing geographical barriers that will harm low-income areas and more than double the median distance that livers travel.”
A copy of the letter can be found here.