April 25, 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS), released the following statement after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) delayed implementation of changes to the national liver distribution policy made by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). Under the new policy, midwestern and southern transplant hospitals, including hospitals located in St. Louis and Kansas City, could see patients waiting longer for a liver match.
“This delay is good news for Missouri patients who are anxiously waiting for a liver transplant and can’t afford to have these misguided changes move forward,” said Blunt. “The new policy penalizes successful organ transplant areas of the country, like ours. It will further complicate the transplant process, lead to fewer organ transplants in our region, increase costs, and, after all of that, will provide no real improvement in patient outcomes. If HHS won’t drop this flawed policy, the courts must move quickly to block it.”
At a Labor/HHS hearing this month, Blunt pressed HHS Secretary Alex Azar about the changes made to the national liver allocation policy.
Blunt previously sent two letters to Secretary Azar, in December 2018 and January 2019, raising concerns over the policy change. In both letters, Blunt noted that OPTN’s decision ignores the recommendations of the Liver and Intestine Transplantation Committee, whose members include some of the nation’s leading transplant experts.
As Blunt noted in a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch op-ed, under the new plan, Missouri could lose 32 percent of livers donated in the state.