Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The costs of deceased donor organ recovery in the U.S., by Held et al. in the journal Transplantation

 Here's the report of an investigation into organ procurement costs and finances:

Cost Structures of US Organ Procurement Organizations by Held, Philip J. PhD1; Bragg-Gresham, Jennifer L. PhD2; Peters, Thomas G. MD3; McCormick, Frank PhD4; Chertow, Glenn MD, MPH1; Vaughan, William P. BS5; Roberts, John P. MD, Transplantation. 2021;105(12):2612-2619. doi:10.1097/TP.0000000000003667.

Abstract: "Background. The goal is to provide a national analysis of organ procurement organization (OPO) costs.

"Methods. Five years of data, for 51 of the 58 OPOs (2013-2017, a near census) were obtained under a FOIA. OPOs are not-for-profit federal contractors with a geographic monopoly. A generalized 15-factor cost regression model was estimated with adjustments to precision of estimates (P) for repeated observations. Selected measures were validated by comparison to IRS forms.

"Results. Decease donor organ procurement is a $1B/y operation with over 26 000 transplants/y. Over 60% of the cost of an organ is overhead. Profits are $2.3M/OPO/y. Total assets are $45M/OPO and growing at 9%/y. "Tissue" (skin, bones) generates $2-3M profit/OPO/y. A comparison of the highest with the lower costing OPOs showed our model explained 75% of the cost difference. Comparing costs across OPOs showed that highest-cost OPOs are smaller, import 44% more kidneys, face 6% higher labor costs, report 98% higher compensation for support personnel, spend 46% more on professional education, have 44% fewer assets, compensate their Executive Director 36% less, and have a lower procurement performance (SDRR) score.

"Conclusions. Profits and assets suggest that OPOs are fiscally secure and OPO finances are not a source of the organ shortage. Asset accumulation ($45M/OPO) of incumbents suggests establishing a competitive market with new entrants is unlikely. Kidney-cost allocations support tissue procurements. Professional education spending does not reduce procurement costs. OPO importing of organs from other OPOs is a complex issue possibly increasing cost ($6K/kidney)."



"In the United States, deceased-donor organ recovery costs total $1B per year and represent approximately one-third the cost of an organ transplant procedure. Direct and indirect costs are reported on CMS required OPO cost reports, confirming that over half of all costs are indirect, such as the costs of organ procurement personnel, professional education, and other personnel expenses. Kidney cost increases over the 5-y study period seem reasonable compared with all medical care cost increases but increased at rates in excess of the cost increases transplant centers experienced for transplant procedures. And, kidney importation (from other OPOs) adds substantially to cost adding $4K-$6K per organ. OPO revenue over expense is largely due to profits from tissue recovery activities. Cost variations of over 100% across areas suggest less than socially efficient cost controls. The strong financial position of OPOs suggests that fiscal limits are not a likely explanation for the shortage of organs for transplantation.

"In considering individual OPOs, 2 levels of kidney costs (>$40K/kidney and <$40K) disclosed both statistically and clinically significant differences. The highest-cost OPOs (>$40K/kidney) are associated with higher direct costs (including more imported organs), higher compensation for support staff and procurement coordinators, higher professional education spending, and lower total assets, fewer organs procured, and lower performance measures-among other factors. Assessment of structural factors such as these may lead to opportunities to decrease cost and improve efficiencies. The US OPO enterprise is substantial, yet future OPO efficiency and performance improvements through competition appear unlikely considering OPO assets, current practices, and regulatory oversight issues. The inefficient financial incentives built into the U.S. OPO structure include both monopoly markets and self-reported cost reimbursement. These characteristics do not compel critical assessment, which could lead to organizational changes and more effective mission capability."

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