Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-MO) and Senate Republicans sent a letter to HHS Xavier Becerra, sounding the alarm about an agency proposal that would dole out organ transplants based “equity” and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies, Breitbart News has learned exclusively.

Sens. Schmitt, Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Mike Lee (R-UT), and John Kennedy (R-LA) wrote a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Becerra about the Increasing Organ Transplant Access (IOTA) model issued by the HHS in May.

Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a ceremonial swearing-in of Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-MO) with his wife Jaime Schmitt, center, in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, January 3, 2023. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

“The organ transplant industry, like every other part of society, is not immune to racial inequities,” Becerra wrote in a statement in May. “Black Americans disproportionately struggle with life-threatening kidney disease, yet they receive a smaller percentage of kidney transplants. The Biden-Harris Administration is taking concrete steps to remove racial bias when calculating wait times and rooting out profiteering and inequity in the transplant process.”

The Senate Republicans believe that the proposal represents the “latest in a string of reckless attempts to force “equity” and divisive DEI politics into our healthcare system.” They explained how the proposal would erode public trust in the transplant system:

Under the proposed model, released through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, hospitals are
given payments based on an annual score determined by three factors: number of transplants, organ acceptance rates, and post-transplant outcomes. A successful kidney transplant counts as one point. A transplant given to a “low-income” patient, however, counts as 1.2 points.

This “health equity adjustment” creates a perverse incentive to prioritize transplants, not by clinical necessity, but by arbitrary income levels. Allocating organs should adhere to the principle of equal treatment for all patients, ensuring that no individual is prioritized over another based on non-medical criteria. Further, public trust in the transplant system will be eroded if people believe allocation decisions are being made based on socio-political factors rather than medical necessity.

A fact sheet for the IOTA proposal said that “Access to organ transplantation can vary by such factors as race, ethnicity, disability, and socio-economic status.”

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) claimed:

For example, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) Annual Data Report, 32% of waitlisted individuals were African American in 2021, but only 13.5% of recipients of a transplant from a living donor were African American. White individuals made up 35.8% of the waitlist and 61.8% of transplant recipients from a living donor.

The Senate Republicans wrote that the department is using income-based criteria to address alleged racial bias that does not exist:

The justification of the Department’s actions and overreliance on DEI assertions is beyond concerning. The Department justifies the inclusion of the “health equity adjustment” as a means to remove an alleged racial bias in the transplant process, despite no clear evidence of such a bias existing. Using income as a stand-in for race violates the cornerstone of medical ethics: ensuring that everyone has an equal chance of receiving care based on need and urgency.

Proposals such as the IOTA models do little to help real patients and instead satisfy the desires of political activists. We need a health care system that provides high-quality, affordable health care for families and individuals. Rather than address the systemic issues making healthcare unaffordable for millions of Americans, this Administration seems hellbent on virtue-signaling “equity” over the real needs of patients.

“People’s healthcare is the latest place for Biden and Democrats to inject divisive DEI policies. Vital medical procedures like a kidney transplant should not be rated on scale of one to woke and doctors and surgeons should not have to consider the equity of a situation before operating on a patient. DEI has no place in the operating room,” Schmitt told Breitbart News in a written statement.

Increasing Organ Transplant Access (IOTA) Model Letter by Breitbart News on Scribd

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Sean Moran is a policy reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.