ORGAN ALLOCATION: Senate Spars on Frist Bill
The future of Sen. Bill Frist's (R-Tenn.) measure on organ allocation is unclear as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee prepares to markup the legislation today. As of last night, Frist was still involved in negotiations with HELP Committee ranking member Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), as both tried to find common ground in the power struggle between HHS and the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) for control over organ allocation (Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 4/12). Under Frist's plan, UNOS would develop an allocation policy and any disputes between UNOS and HHS would be settled by an expert committee (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/12). The senator's move is an effort to remedy the House bill, passed last week, that gives UNOS much of the policymaking authority and cancels HHS regulations. Both Frist and Kennedy agree that the House bill "went too far."
To add to Frist's woes, an "unlikely" bipartisan effort by his peers further threatens his bill. Sens. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) introduced legislation yesterday that would restate HHS authority over transplant policy, "pre-empt state laws that require organs first be offered to state residents, as well as bar UNOS from using patient fees to lobby Congress." The Organ Transplant Fairness Act is designed to "block any attempt to pass the House bill in the upper chamber." Fitzgerald said, "We're all uncomfortable up here having this private company that does not have public accountability literally making life or death decisions." Santorum added, "That House bill will never pass the Senate. We will pass a good bill here or we will pass no bill" (CongressDaily/A.M., 4/12).