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Sen. Collins introduces bill to revise HCFA's OPO performance standards, certification process.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced legislation on March 9 to revise the current performance standards and certification process of US organ procurement organizations (OPOs). The bill states that the current process conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) has "created a level of uncertainty that is interfering" with the nation's OPOs effectiveness in increasing organ donation.

The bill, dubbed the Organ Procurement Organization Certification Act of 2000 (S 2235), has bipartisan support.

Collins was joined in introducing the bill by Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), Frank Murkowski (R-AK), and Robert Torricelli (D-NJ).

"The HCFA's current certification process for OPOs sets an arbitrary, population-based performance standard for certifying OPOs based on donors pr million of population in their service areas," said Collins in a statement introducing the bill. "The use of this population-based method to evaluate OPO performance may well result in the decertification that are actually excellent performers. Under HCFA's current regulatory practice, OPOs are decertified if they fail to meet the 75th percentile of the national means on 4 of the 5 performance areas. In this process, which resembles a game of musical chairs, it is mathematical certainty that some OPOs will fail in each cycle, no matter how much they might individually improve."

Collins outlined the three major objectives of the bill:

*imposes a moratorium on the current recertification process for OPOs and the use of population-based performance measurements. Under our bill, the certification of qualified OPOs will remain in place through January 1, 2002, for those OPOs that have been certified as of January 1, 2000, and that meet other qualification requirements apart from the current performance standards.

*requires the HHS Secretary to promulgate new rules governing OPO recertification by January 1, 2002. The rules are to rely on the outcome and process performance measures based on evidence of organ donor potential and other relevant factors, and recertification for OPOs shall not be required until the are promulgated.

*provides for the filing and approval of a corrective action plan by an OPO that fails to meet the standards, a grace period to permit a corrective plan, an opportunity to appeal a decertification to the Secretary on substantive grounds, and a four-year certification cycle.

"This is very important legislation because it points out that OPOs have been hampered by the current certification and performance standards process," Paul Schwab, executive director of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO), told Transplant News. "The fact that the bill has received bi-partisan recognition in congress is a strong indication they recognize something needs to be done."

Schwab noted that the ongoing debate between HHS and the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) over allocation policy has put OPO issues on "page two" in the press. However, he added "enormous strides have been made in the past few months to get the story out to congress" that the performance standards issue is vitally important to the nation's OPOs.
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Publication:Transplant News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 27, 2000
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