Medicare Rules Make Offsite Organ Recovery Costly

Cheryl Clark, March 26, 2014

Using organ procurement organizations reduces costs and is safer for patients and medical staff. But complex reimbursement rules deter some transplant hospitals from allowing organs from brain-dead donors to be recovered off site.

Many hospitals with transplant programs are refusing to allow brain-dead organ donors to be transported to more efficient off-site organ recovery centers citing a federal rule they say would cost them millions of dollars in Medicare reimbursement.

"This rule has a significant financial impact to transplant centers that are also medium or large donor facilities," says Deb Maurer, administrator of the transplant program at UPMC in Pittsburgh. "Though this [concept of off-site donor recovery centers] has wonderful potential and makes a lot of sense to us, we can't in today's healthcare market take that financial risk of moving these donors out of our facility" for organ recovery.

Organ Recovery Centers Reduce Transplant Costs 37%

For UPMC, whose seven programs transplant more than 600 organs a year, the Medicare cost hit would be in the millions, Maurer says. So the Center for Organ Recovery and Education, the organ procurement organization serving western Pennsylvania, will have to rely on hospitals without transplant programs for organ donors.

Trouble is, hospitals with transplant programs also have trauma centers, the source of the lion's share of patients who will be declared brain-dead and suitable for organ donation.

Maurer says she knows of other organ procurement organizations that have built similar offsite organ recovery centers that "sit empty for this exact same reason."


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