October 28, 2020

Young, Grassley, Finance Committee Members Continue Investigation into U.S. Organ Transplant System

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), along with Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning their oversight procedures for the organ procurement and transplantation system in the United States. This probe comes after numerous inspector general audits and news reports raised questions about the adequacy of patient safety standards, suggested thousands of available organs are not being used, and highlighted questionable financial practices of some organ procurement organizations (OPOs).


“The Department’s own data suggests that thousands of lifesaving organs go unrecovered every year, and investigative reporting has highlighted significant lapses in quality control and patient safety, including a report last month about a patient who died after the organ procurement organization (OPO) responsible for the transplant incorrectly identified the donor’s blood type,”the senators wrote.


“Our concerns regarding the Department’s role in overseeing our nation’s organ procurement organizations (OPOs) stem from Inspector General audits/reports, whistleblower accounts, investigative reporting, and research. Additionally, our internal analysis has shed light on the gaps in the federal government’s oversight, resulting in fraud, waste, and abuse of our nation’s Medicare program and American taxpayer dollars.”


Full text of the letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar can be found HERE.


This letter is part of the ongoing Finance Committee investigation into the conduct of the nation’s organ donation and procurement system. In February, the members sent an expansive request for information and data to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which was contracted by Congress nearly four decades ago to oversee the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). The response from UNOS can be found HERE. Following the letter, Senator Young introduced the Lost Opportunities to Supply Transplantable Organs (LOST Organs) Act to help prevent lifesaving organs from getting lost in transport.


Last year, Senator Young wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Acting Inspector General (HHS OIG) Joanne Chiedi requesting a comprehensive examination of the adequacy of the organ procurement and transplantation system in the United States. In July 2019, Senator Young introduced legislation to deliver more life-saving organs to patients by establishing clear, accountable metrics for organ procurement organizations (OPOs) and spoke about the bill on the Senate floorIn an op-ed for The Hill, Senator Young outlined the need for his legislation to bring greater transparency, oversight, and accountability to the nation’s organ donation system. In December 2019, HHS announced proposed rules to adopt performance measures similar to Senator Young’s bill.


In 2018, the Washington Post published a report highlighting Senator Young’s efforts.