WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., on Thursday sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar asking for a continued delay in the changes made by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, called OPTN, to the national liver distribution policy

Health and Human Services has temporarily delayed the changes, which were scheduled to take effect April 30.

The senators are seeking to continue the delay pending additional information they have requested from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

“The new OPTN policy will have a chilling effect on Midwestern and Southern states as well as rural areas. No longer will locally donated livers be more likely to stay in Missouri, Kansas, or other Midwestern states that have high donation rates,” the senators wrote. “Instead, the OPTN rewards locations that underutilize existing organ donation resources and have historically troubled organ procurement organizations. Under the plan, Missouri could lose 32 percent of livers donated in the state; Kansas could lose 45 percent.”

In light of the concerns both senators have raised about the new liver allocation policy, they have requested that the Government Accountability Office determine: whether the Health Resources and Services Administration is exercising adequate oversight of changes made by OPTN; to what extent the process used by OPTN took into account the opinions of experts in the areas of organ transplantation; how a similar change to the lung allocation policy affected costs for acquiring, processing, and transplanting lungs; and whether these factors were considered prior to adopting a change to the liver policy.

“We believe the new liver policy is shortsighted and simply wrong,” the senators continued. “As you have shown with the temporary delay, you have the authority to delay the allocation policy. We urge you to continue this delay until a full and thorough examination of the OPTN policy and process can be accomplished.”

Last month, Sen. Moran questioned Secretary Azar on this policy in an Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services hearing. Sens. Moran and Blunt previously sent two letters to Secretary Azar, in December 2018 and January 2019, raising concerns over the policy change.

In both letters, the senators 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. Sens. Moran and Blunt also wrote an op-ed in the Kansas City Star underscoring the harmful impact the policy will have for patients in Missouri and Kansas.

The full text of the letter to Secretary Azar is available at https://tinyurl.com/yxcxtdl6 and the full text of the letter to GAO is available at https://tinyurl.com/yyrobav9.