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East front of the U.S. Capitol on July 13, 2017. (Humberto Sanchez/The Nevada Independent)

Following a contentious hearing earlier this month, a congressional panel officially requested financial documents and other information from the Nevada Donor Network (NDN) and the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO).

In a letter dated Thursday, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), who leads the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee, wrote to NDN chief Joseph Ferreira demanding an itemized list of spending included in financial disclosures submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) between 2016 and 2020. 

The letter was also signed by subcommittee member Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) and the panel wants a response by June 10.

The subcommittee is particularly interested in itemized expenses for any “administrative and general” categories. 

The subcommittee also requested information on NDN’s relationship to Origin Biologics, a Las Vegas-based tissue processing facility. The panel also said Ferreira, who is currently serving on AOPO’s executive committee, was misleading when asked about the issue at the May 4 hearing.

“Your responses were misleading, since you omitted pertinent and highly relevant information that Nevada Donor Network does have an ownership interest in Origin Biologics,” the letter said. “An Origin Biologics press release from November 2018 announced that Origin Biologics is a “joint venture” between Nevada Donor Network and Australian Biotechnologies, and that Origin Biologics was planning on building a local tissue processing facility in Nevada. This “joint venture” and your lack of forthrightness about it at the hearing raise concerns about conflicts of interest in carrying out your primary public mission to secure more organs for transplant.” 

In a separate letter to AOPO, the interest group representing organ procurement organizations (OPOs), the panel also asked for Itemized expenses from January 2016 to the present, including executive compensation; payments to consultants or contractors of any nature; any seminars, conferences, or meetings hosted by AOPO; travel expenses and lobbying and advocacy.

NDN said it has received the request and that they intend to work with the panel.

"It is our intent to cooperate with the subcommittee’s requests and we remain fully committed to openness and transparency," NDN said in a statement.

AOPO did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But both said after the May 4 hearing that they planned to cooperate with the investigation. NDN also said after the hearing that its spending practices are lawful.

At the May 4 hearing, Ferreira confirmed that NDN holds season tickets for the National Football League’s Las Vegas Raiders and the National Hockey League’s Las Vegas Golden Knights. Ferreira also said that the NDN board had attended retreats in the California wine country.

“If Medicare funds reimbursed you for these executive perks, it would be inappropriate and potentially unlawful,” the letter said. “Nevada Donor Network bears a responsibility to the public to use the Medicare funds paid to it to serve its public mission of securing more organs for transplant.” 

The letter noted that the inclusion of these overhead and business costs for reimbursement drives up the costs of transplants, known as the standard acquisition charge (SAC) and hence the cost to taxpayers.

“Since Medicare is the payer for a large number of organ transplant operations, including over 50% of kidney transplants, taxpayers pay for much of the SAC fees received by OPOs,” the letter said. “When OPOs include additional costs and inflate the SAC, taxpayers foot the bill.”

With regard to the tickets, the committee wants a list of all people who have used the tickets and which events they attended.

The panel requested all documents related to any retreat, including the 2018 retreat to Sonoma and the 2019 retreat to Napa Valley, including lists of attendees, guests of employees; itemized lists of all costs; any trip itineraries and agendas; and any information provided to employees or others on guidance for the trips.
The subcommittee requested all policies and procedures reflecting Nevada Donor Network’s process to identify whether transplant recipients are Medicare beneficiaries and report the number of organs transplanted into Medicare beneficiaries on its CMS cost reports.

This story was updated Thursday, May 27, 2021, at 7:29 p.m. to include a comment from the Nevada Donor Network.

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