Reed joins bipartisan, bicameral contingent to hasten organ procurement changes

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), co-chair of the Diabetes Caucus, earlier this week joined a bipartisan, bicameral coalition of lawmakers in requesting that a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rule be finalized to reform the nation’s organ procurement system.

The 10 lawmakers, who also included U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) and Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), as well as U.S. Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), among others, sent a March 16 letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Acting Secretary Norris Cochran in “strong support” of the CMS final rule, which would revise performance and outcomes measures, increase accountability, and improve transparency through changes to the Organ Procurement Organization Conditions for Coverage.

Rep. Reed and his colleagues requested that the rule be expeditiously implemented, noting that an average of more than 12,000 people have died each year since 2015 while either waiting for a transplant or were removed from the waiting list due to severe sickness that hampered transplantation.

“We encourage the Biden-Harris administration to implement the rule expediently once the agency-wide review is complete,” they wrote. “This rule is urgent as it would make long overdue improvements to the organ transplant system that will save lives and improve health equity.” 

Rep. Reed and the members of Congress said the final rule marks a critical first step toward ensuring accountability across all 57 Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs), which CMS determined in a recent survey did not have outcome measures sufficiently objective and transparent to ensure appropriate accountability in assessing OPO performance, according to their letter.

In fact, HHS data suggested that thousands of lifesaving organs have gone unrecovered every year, wrote Rep. Reed and his colleagues, while Inspector General audits, whistleblower accounts, and investigative reporting also have found OPO performance failures. They also noted that the reforms under the final rule have urgent implications for health equity in America, “as failures of the current organ donation system disproportionately hurt patients of color.”

“Furthermore, by increasing kidney transplants and avoiding dialysis costs to Medicare,” they wrote, “OPO reform could save taxpayers up to $40 billion over the next 10 years.”

Rep. Reed and his colleagues acknowledged that implementation of the CMS rule has been delayed as part of a routine review of agency regulations, guidance and other actions taken during the Trump administration, but urged the current administration to quickly take action that speeds up the process.