Changing America’s System for Organ Transplants

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31 December, 2019

The United States government recently proposed new rules designed to improve transplant operations.

The goal is to ease a severe shortage of kidneys and other organs. The shortage is

so severe that more than 113,000 Americans are on the transplant waiting list — and about 20 die each day.

Part of the problem is this. An Associated Press study recently found some organ collections agencies miss opportunities that could have saved lives. Some of these groups secure donors at half the rate of others.

The U.S. government currently has little way to directly compare organ collection agencies and force poor performers to improve.

The rules come after President Donald Trump ordered a reworking of care for kidney disease.

Crackdown on OPO's

Under the proposed rules, Medicare, the national health insurance program, would rate the performance of organ procurement organizations, or OPOs.

"No life-saving organ should go to waste," Medicare chief Seema Verma said while announcing the proposals.

Organ transplant activists praised the move.

"Patients are dying, and they deserve better," said Jennifer Erickson about the government campaign targeting OPOs. Erickson worked on transplant policy for the administration of former president Barack Obama.

The association that represents the organ collection groups promised to work with Medicare to put the stronger rules into action.

The new measures are "an opportunity to drive meaningful changes that will increase the availability of organs for transplant and save more lives," said Kelly Ranum, the association's president. Ranum also heads the state of Louisiana's OPO.

A 2017 study by University of Pennsylvania researchers estimated that an improved transplant system could get as many as 28,000 more organs for patients.

How to Increase the numbers of living donors?

The Trump administration also aims to increase the numbers of living donors. The idea is that living donors should be reimbursed for lost wages and other costs during their hospital stay and recovery.

Currently, the transplant recipient's insurance company pays the donor's medical costs. But donors are out of work for weeks while they recover. And not all employers permit some form of paid time off.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar's father received a kidney transplant from a living donor. "When an American wishes to become a living donor, we don't believe their financial situation should limit their generosity," he said.

Most transplant organs come from deceased donors. But people lucky enough to receive an organ from a living donor often cut their wait time.

Yet fewer than 7,000 of the 36,529 transplants performed nationwide last year were from living donors.

I'm John Russell.

Lauran Neergaard reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

opportunity – n. chance; a series of events that makes it possible to do something

insurance – n. a system by which a company or government agency provides a guarantee of payment for damage, sickness or death

deserve – v. to do something or show qualities worthy of praise or recognition

procurement – n. the act or process of getting something

reimburse – v. to pay someone an amount of money equal to an amount that person has spent — often + for

generosity – n. the quality of being kind, understanding, and not selfish

deceased – adj. no longer living

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