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Accountability for Organ Donations Will Save Thousands of Lives, Billions of Dollars

In today’s politically charged climate, it often seems that politicians aren’t taken seriously unless they spuriously claim that “people will die” if a certain course of action is or is not taken. The rhetoric has been elevated to such a point that only the threat of life or death seems to get the attention of the masses, regardless of whether or not the claim is true. That’s a shame, because an issue has finally come along that does have grave consequences for thousands of Americans.

The way organ donations are handled in America has become a proverbial petri dish for waste, fraud, and abuse. Roughly 113,000 are waitlisted for organ transplants and 1,000 die every month waiting for an organ. The sad fact is that a good number of these deaths are avoidable. They are not dying because of a lack of organs, but rather a lack of accountability.

When an organ donor dies, organ procurement organizations (OPO) are tasked with working with the grieving family to coordinate a donation. Unfortunately, the research shows that these OPOs are grossly inefficient. Up to 28,000 potential organs go unrecovered by OPOs each year. In some states, regional OPOs fail to recover even one-third of possible organs. This is unacceptable.

OPO Map

These OPOs are granted regional monopolies by the government. As shown in the map above, so many fall out of compliance with national standards (indicated in red). Yet, for thirty years, not a single OPO has lost a government contract. Their incompetence is killing patients and the government has allowed this scheme to continue.

A stunning expository piece shows just how far this goes. There are stories of organs being left in airports or languishing for hours at baggage claim waiting for someone to pick them up. This is because of the patchwork of regional monopolies the government has granted and the utter inability to coordinate.

Incompetence, though, does not even tell the whole tale. Investigative reports and audits show the Los Angeles area OPO has misused taxpayer dollars on lavish sports tickets and dinners. Two OPO executives in Alabama were convicted of running a kickback scheme with a funeral home and defrauding the taxpayers out of millions of dollars.

There’s also a fiscal aspect to this issue. Dialysis costs Medicare billions each year. Getting patients in need of a kidney transplant the organ they need could save roughly $250,000 per person. Considering how many thousands of people are waiting on kidneys, this is worth billions in savings for taxpayers across the nation.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has a proposal that would impose accountability standards on these OPOs. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) has a bill that would help enforce these standards. The time to act is now to save thousands of lives and billions of dollars for the American people.