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The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations Refutes The Washington Post’s Framing of OPO Operations

OPOs operate under a strict regulatory framework overseen by multiple federal agencies regarding allowable billing and reimbursement practices

McLean, VA (February 26, 2024) – On Monday, February 26, 2024, The Washington Post published an article reporting that nonprofit organ procurement organizations (OPOs) are under investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of the Inspector General for defrauding the United States government.

This article relies on unnamed sources and unsubstantiated claims about the nation’s nonprofit organ procurement organizations (OPOs), which each year save tens of thousands of American lives through donation. In 2023, OPOs recovered more than 43,000 organs for transplant, marking thirteen years of consecutive growth in deceased donation. This success exceeds the benchmark set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reach 41,000 organ transplants by 2026.

Additionally, OPOs operate under a strict regulatory framework overseen by multiple federal agencies regarding allowable billing and reimbursement practices. They are required to submit, to both CMS and independent Certified Public Accountant firms, annual cost reports encompassing a complete record of all Medicare transactions. This information is subject to auditing and reconciliation processes.

This article is the latest in a yearslong pattern from The Washington Post of ignoring proactive outreach from experts in the organ donation and transplantation community, and choosing to malign OPOs as wholly corrupt, an assertion that the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) roundly rejects.

The Washington Post has repeatedly ignored offers by AOPO and others in the field to provide on-the-record statements and data that demonstrate the integrity of our nation’s OPOs. In doing so, the outlet has denied AOPO, which represents a majority of the nation’s OPOs, an opportunity to refute claims, opting instead to rely on unnamed or biased sources and flawed studies.

The Washington Post persists with its incomplete coverage while neglecting to report on some of the most pressing issues impacting the organ donation and transplantation system today.

The outlet has not covered the impending consequences of a CMS final rule issued in 2020, which could see nearly half of the nation’s OPOs decertified and shut down in 2026 without a plan to replace this critical infrastructure. The outlet has also not covered the rising rate of organ non-utilization, whereby organs recovered by OPOs are declined for transplantation.

The National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) found organ nonuse to be a top contributor to long wait times for organ transplants. In 2023, the non-utilization rate of kidneys reached a record high of 28%, resulting in the loss of thousands of viable organs that could have saved lives.

The consensus study report by NASEM, “Realizing the Promise of Equity in the Organ Transplantation System,” provided data-driven recommendations for all stakeholders to enhance systemwide performance, many of which have already been incorporated by OPOs. This lauded study has yet to factor meaningfully into The Washington Post’s reporting.

The organ donation and transplant system is one of the most critical sectors of healthcare in the United States, and one of the last to be led entirely by nonprofit entities. OPOs are an irreplaceable component of this complex system, helping to save the lives of thousands each year and working to save the lives of the more than 100,000 patients currently waiting for an organ transplant.

The work of OPOs is too important for AOPO to stand by and allow The Washington Post’s incomplete reporting to continue unchallenged. We ask that The Washington Post re-examine its coverage and revise it to provide a factual, unbiased, balanced analysis of the organ donation and transplantation system today.

AOPO is a longtime proponent of innovation to the donation and transplantation system and has supported legislative efforts to strengthen our current system. Our association has been an active participant in discourse on changes to the field, proactively raising its concerns on various issues over the years. Additionally, AOPO and its member OPOs have cooperated with all inquiries made by the federal government, expending considerable time and resources to furnish all requested materials.

AOPO will continue to advocate for the best interests of its member OPOs and will work to preserve the integrity of the world’s strongest system for organ donation and transplant.

We ask all members of the media to contact AOPO prior to reporting on these issues, as they are complex and there are multiple narratives circulating for which we have perspective and input.

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About the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO)

The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) is the not-for-profit trade association leading the nation’s organ donation community to save and improve lives through organ, eye, and tissue donation. Founded in 1984, AOPO advances organ donation and transplantation by driving continual improvement of the donation process, collaborating with stakeholders, and sharing successful practices with its 48 member OPOs. AOPO envisions a future where every opportunity for donation results in lives saved. For more information, please visit