Miss. Senators Cosponsored Measure to Change Policy that Harms Transplant Patients in the South, Midwest 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today welcomed the enactment of legislation they backed to break up the monopoly contract that manages the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN).

President Biden on Friday signed the Securing the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Act (HR.2544), which passed the Senate on July 27.  Wicker and Hyde-Smith cosponsored S.1668, the Senate companion bill to HR.2544.

“I am glad to see this legislation signed into law,” Wicker said.  “These reforms will expand competition and improve management of the organ donation network. Every Mississippian deserves access to life-saving care.”

“The demand for transplant organs grows every year.  Unfortunately, the system to ensure fairness and efficiency in distributing those organs isn’t working well, often to the detriment of patients in the South.  This new law provides the tools to begin fixing those shortcomings,” Hyde-Smith said.

The new law provides the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with clear authority to expand competition for contracts related to the operation of the OPTN in order to improve management of the organ transplantation system in the United States.  It expressly authorizes the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to award multiple grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements to support the operation of the network.

Enacting the legislation is urgent and timely in that it will allow HRSA to implement a new contract procurement process before the current OPTN contract expires.

The Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency supported the legislation, which was prompted by evidence of consistent mismanagement and underperformance by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the sole organization running the transplant system since its inception decades ago.

In early 2022, Wicker and Hyde-Smith signed a letter asking HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to reverse the Biden administration’s flawed national liver distribution policy, citing the disproportionate harm the liver distribution policy causes patients in the South and Midwest.  

In March, HRSA launched an OPTN modernization initiative to better serve patients and families.  The University of Mississippi Medical Center operates a highly-successful transplant program.