Testimony of Dr. Ginny Bumgardner and Dr. Trent Tipple

Washington, DC (2005-04-14)

Oral Statement of

Ginny Bumgardner, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Surgery
The Ohio State University
Columbus Ohio
Trent Tipple, MD
Neonatology Fellow
The Ohio State University
Columbus Ohio

United States House of Representatives
Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

Washington, D.C.
April 14, 2005
10:00 a.m.

On Behalf of the Transplant Roundtable
A Coalition of the Following Organizations:

American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases

American Association of Kidney Patients

American Association of Tissue Banks

American Liver Foundation

American Society of Pediatric Nephrology

American Society of Transplantation

American Society of Transplant Surgeons

Association of Organ Procurement Organizations

Eye Bank Association of America

National Kidney Foundation

North American Transplant Coordinators Organization

United Network for Organ Sharing

Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony on behalf of the twelve organizations represented by the Transplant Roundtable, to request funding for the Organ Donation and Recovery Improvement Act.

I am a transplant surgeon at The Ohio State University Medical Center. With me today is Dr. Trent Tipple, a pediatric resident physician at Columbus Children’s Hospital and a kidney transplant recipient.

There is a huge demand for organ donors in this country. Almost 88,000 individuals are on the waiting list to receive an organ transplant, approximately 6,000 of whom will die this year never having received a life-saving organ. This situation is intolerable for clinicians like me who have the skills and training to save someone’s life, but are prevented by the simple lack of available organs for transplantation.

The bipartisan Organ Donation and Recovery Improvement Act of 2004 was enacted last April to help ameliorate the lack of organs by encouraging people to donate and improving the practice of transplantation. It authorizes $25 million in new funding for activities that can increase organ donations:

  • $5 million for the reimbursement of travel and subsistence expenses for low-income living donors who would otherwise not be able to donate.
  • $3 million for grants for hospital-based “organ coordinators” whose advanced coordination activities increase the number of available organs for donation.
  • $15 million for grants and demonstration projects to increase organ donation—an example of which is the HHS Breakthrough Collaborative that has demonstrably increased the number of transplanted organs.
  • $2 million for studies by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality into existing and new methods for organ recovery, preservation, and transportation, something the field of transplantation sorely needs.

I would like to let Dr. Tipple discuss the importance of the $5 million authorization for the reimbursement of travel and subsistence expenses for low-income living donors who would otherwise be unable to donate.

[Dr. Tipple] Living donation is a crucial means to providing a life-giving liver or kidney without utilizing scarce organs from deceased donors. I was fortunate enough to receive a deceased donor kidney, but many Americans who could benefit from living donation are unable to because their family or friend cannot afford the expense of traveling, a hotel room, food, and, in many cases, lost wages. Currently, insurers (including federal health programs) will pay for the medical procedures associated with living donation, but not the travel and living expenses of the donor.

Funding this program is essential for increasing the number of transplants in a time where deceased donor organs are scarce. Living donation can allow a recipient to leave kidney dialysis within 6 months of being placed on the waiting list, as opposed to deceased donor kidneys that the average donor must wait 4 or more years to receive. Thus, increasing the number of living donors has the potential not only to get organs to increasingly sick patients, but also to save millions of dollars to the Medicare program which must pay for longer periods of dialysis before transplantation.

[Dr. Bumgardner] Last year was a record year for organ donations in the United States with a 10.8% increase over 2003. This increase strongly correlates to increases in funding for the HRSA’s Division of Transplantation in FY 2001 through FY 2003, demonstrating that an increase in funding can translate into more organ donations and more Americans receiving life-saving organs. The Administration proposed in its FY 2006 budget for the Division of Transplantation a 5 percent cut in funding, making it virtually impossible for that agency to fund any of the new authorizations in the Organ Donation Act in FY 2006.

It is imperative that the Organ Donation Act receive significant funding in FY 2006, the second year of its 5-year authorization, to continue the success federal efforts have had to increase organ donation and improve the practice of transplantation. My patients, your constituents, and all Americans who are waiting for a donated organ thank you for your consideration of this request.