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COVID-19: Effect on Organ Donation and

Transplantation



April 20, 2020
The U.S. domestic rcsponsc to Coronavris Disease 2019 (COVID-19) poses both short- and long-term
concerns for the U.S. organ transplant system. Otgans are a limited resource, and their allocation is
strictly regulated to try to ensure that no donated organs go unused. A number of transplant centers ha  e
suspended their transplant programs due to COVID-19. In addition, individuals are inactivating from
organ waitsts in large numbers due to COVID-19 precautions. Disruptions in the system may create
long-term effects for both the allocation of organs and the viability of organizations involved in the
process, which are subject to federal outcome measures.
This Insight provides background information on the organ donation and transplantation system,
summarizes action taken to respond to COVID-19 by the organ transplant community, and identifies
potential issues for Congress.

Background
Organ donations and transplantations are coordinated through the Organ Procurcmen t and Transplantation
Network (O11N), a nationwide network of all organizations involved in the process (e.g., transplait
centers, organ procur nw nt organizations [OPO's], laboratories). OPTN is administered by the United
Network fot Oragnm Sharing (UNOS), a private organization under contract with the Department of Health
and Human Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). UNOS has held the
contract to administer OPTN since it was established by the National Organ Transptlan Act of 1984 (P.L.
98-507).
OPTN administers a scuces of policies designed to allocate organs with consideration of both the inited
number of orgmns and their shoil shelfife, among other considerations. OPTN is also responsible for
monitoring perfnnance of OPTN rnenbers. OPTN is able to take nemrgoncy action in the event that a
policy proposal is required due to an emergent public health issue or patient safety factors. Policy
proposals under emergency action must be submkttd firough the normal policy proposal procCss, but
they are subject to a truncated comment period and carry an expiration date.
In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) plays a role in oversight of OPOs by
requiring conditions for coverage in order to receive payment for activities under Medicare and Medicaid.

                                                                 Congressional Research Service
                                                                   https://crsreports.congress.gov
                                                                                       IN11345

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