July 20,2023

Wyden Statement at Finance Committee Health Subcommittee Hearing on Organ Transplantation Reform

As Prepared for Delivery

Today’s Health Subcommittee hearing marks an important continuation of the Finance Committee’s work to improve the organ transplantation system so it works on behalf of all Americans and their families who are in desperate need of a life-saving organ. Chairman Cardin has been a tireless champion for this cause and I look forward to continuing to work with him.

I want to make just a couple of brief points so the committee can jump into questions. I want to start by updating members about our work to help the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) implement its modernization of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. I’m proud of the bipartisan support this legislation has received, and I am gratified that UNOS is not opposing this bill, and I am working closely with Chairman Sanders to move ahead. I am optimistic that the Senate will take action in a timely manner. There’s no time to lose - HRSA is on track to begin the contract process this fall.

Last week, this committee hosted a meeting with officials from HRSA and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to discuss the Administration’s efforts to modernize the OPTN to help connect more Americans with lifesaving organs and bring more accountability and competition to the contracting process. I’m pleased to say that HRSA and CMS are working hard to pull from the same end of the rope. 

As Congress considers complementary legislation to the OPTN modernization effort, led by bipartisan members on this committee, this hearing is an important opportunity to be clear about what this legislation sets out to do. I asked HRSA for the Administration’s interpretation of two aspects of our bill. 

First, I asked if our bill will allow the organ transplantation system to be privatized. HRSA was unequivocal, and I quote: “No, the system is not being privatized.” Period. In fact, HRSA notes that our bill will, for the first time, mandate an independent Board of Directors to oversee the OPTN, separate from the contract holder.

Second, I asked HRSA to explain the boundaries that are in place if a for-profit organization is awarded a part of the O-P-T-N contract. They said that for-profit organizations would be held to strict federal standards for contractors, including quote “limits on profits and fees and comprehensive oversight both before and after contract award.” HRSA also made clear they intend for the section of the contract concerning support for the independent OPTN Board of Directors to be awarded to a non-profit organization.

Colleagues, let’s be very clear about what’s on offer here. Every member of Congress wants Americans to have the best-in-class organ transplantation system. The Finance Committee’s bipartisan investigation found critical failures from the current contract holder, especially when it comes to matters such as information technology and logistics. So our legislation is written from top-to-bottom to ensure competition for technical functions like these that will help the OPTN perform to the highest possible level.

There’s a lot for the committee to discuss today. I want to thank the witnesses for joining us.