ORGAN SHARING: New HHS Rules Delayed By Congress
"Language inserted into a spending bill during a House-Senate conference would give Congress three more months in which to fight over the changes to the country's organ-sharing system," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The proposed regulations, released in March by Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, would revamp the current system so that patients waiting for organs are prioritized on a national basis, as opposed to the current system which offers organs to patients on a geographic basis. The Times-Dispatch notes that the "new rules tilt the system toward sickest patients and large transplant centers, such as the University of Pittsburgh, which has supported the changes." The language Congress inserted into the appropriations bill extends the public comment period on the new system until August 31, and prevents the immediate implementation of the changes. According to the Times-Dispatch, "[i]t appears that President Clinton will sign" the legislation containing the comment period extension.
Richmond-based United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which administers the nation's organ sharing network under a federal contract, "has been fighting the changes, saying the proposed new system could jeopardize local programs." The organization is attempting to meet with Shalala in an effort to work out a compromise. Executive Director Walter Graham said, "The community does not think the (HHS) regulations are the right way to go." HHS spokesperson Melissa Skolfield said that after three years of discussion, it is time to implement the new system. She said, "We're disappointed. It seems to us that members of the committee may have been misinformed about what the regulations would do. We do think it's time to move forward with a system that's fairer" (Hostetler, 5/2). Click here for past American Health Line coverage of the proposed organ allocation changes. If you don't have access to our keyword-searchable database through National Journal's Cloakroom Website, send an e-mail to email@example.com, or call customer service at 1-800-207-8001 or 202-739-8536.