HCFA issues new COP on organ donation

The first of HCFA’s new conditions of participation may complicate your life considerably.

To remain part of the Medicare program, all 5,200 acute care hospitals under the Prospective Payment System must set up a system to notify their regional organ procurement organization (OPO) about patients who die or "whose death is imminent in the hospital."

The regulation is the latest step in the National Organ and Tissue Donation Initiative, launched by Vice President Al Gore several months ago. Its purpose is to help determine if dead or dying patients can donate lifesaving organs or tissues for transplant.

"In the absence of the requirement we are making today, we have been missing thousands of opportunities for donation each year," Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala said in announcing the rule. "With better identification of potential donors, we can substantially reduce the number of deaths among those awaiting a transplant."

Under the rule, hospitals will refer 2.1 million hospital deaths annually to the nation’s 63 OPOs or to third parties designated to handle the referrals. Hospitals also will work with the organizations to ensure that the family of every potential donor knows about its option to donate organs or tissues. OPOs in states that have passed similar laws have seen an increase of up to 40% in organ donation.

The regulation, published in the June 22 Federal Register, will take effect Aug. 21.