Fact-checking claim about the Red Cross and blood sold to hospitals

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Regular blood donors probably don’t think twice when they receive texts or calls from the American Red Cross encouraging another donation, but they may frown at claims on social media that suggest the Cross -Red takes advantage of these gifts.

“Today I learned that the Red Cross sells your donated blood to hospitals for $150 and then that hospital charges you thousands of dollars for a blood transfusion,” reads a screenshot from a tweet shared on Facebook. “I hate it here.”

The April 18 post about the nonprofit was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat fake news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Learn more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The Red Cross sells donated blood to hospitals, but the fees charged by the Red Cross to hospitals are used to recover the costs of collecting blood, said Emily Osment, spokeswoman for the Red Cross.

“The Red Cross charges hospitals and plasma manufacturers for the costs associated with the recruitment and screening of potential donors, the collection of blood by trained personnel, and the processing and testing of each unit of blood in state-of-the-art laboratories and the labeling, storage and distribution of blood components,” she said.

Osment did not confirm whether the Red Cross sells blood to hospitals for $150, as claimed in social media posts.

What blood collection centers charge hospitals

Dr Claudia Cohn, chief medical officer of the Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies, said hospitals pay centers that collect blood, such as the Red Cross, based on private contracts.

In 2019, hospitals paid an average of $215 per unit of red blood cells, according to data from the 2019 National Blood Collection and Utilization Survey, which surveyed community blood collection centers and hospitals. on blood donors, donations and the use of blood donations. some blood.

Ge Bai, a professor of health policy, management and accounting at Johns Hopkins University, said the exact price a hospital pays the Red Cross for a unit of blood donation “depends on the price negotiated between a specific hospital and the Red Cross”.

“In order to remain financially viable, the Red Cross cannot afford to lose money selling blood to hospitals,” she said.

Donated blood is rarely offered to hospitals free of charge, she said.

The price that blood collection centers charge hospitals also varies by city and state. Labor costs and office rents are higher on the coasts, for example, and those costs are passed on to hospitals, Slate reported in 2006.

Costs of blood transfusions for hospitals, patients

The Red Cross says the average red blood cell transfusion is about three units of blood.

Cohn said that for hospitals, the cost of a transfusion reflects the expense of the blood supply itself and the costs of labor, equipment, laboratory tests and superspecialized medical services. needed to deliver blood to patients. Bai said blood storage and hospital overhead also influence the cost of a blood transfusion.

Ultimately, Cohn said, for a routine blood transfusion, a hospital could charge a patient around $1,000 to $3,500, “depending on a patient’s specific medical needs.”

Yale Global Health Review in 2016 reported that for some organ transplant recipients, blood transfusion costs can exceed $3,800. Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2017 estimated that the average fee charged to patients for its blood transfusion service was around $3,671.

These fees do not necessarily mean that patients will pay thousands of dollars for a blood transfusion.

“For publicly insured patients, the price is determined by law and hospitals cannot change it,” Bai said. “For privately insured patients, the price is negotiated between the hospital and the patient’s insurance plan.”

For uninsured patients, the George Washington University Hospital’s Patient Cost Estimator reported that a patient would likely be charged about $1,269 for a blood transfusion – although more likely to pay $508 for a blood transfusion. his pocket after a “self-paid” discount. A “self-paid” discount often refers to the price an uninsured patient is asked to pay for common outpatient procedures, and it may be less than the price negotiated by insurance companies.

Our decision

A Facebook post claimed that “the Red Cross sells your donated blood to hospitals for $150 and then that hospital charges you thousands of dollars for a blood transfusion.”

The Red Cross has not confirmed to PolitiFact whether it charges hospitals $150 for blood it collects from donors. The association bills hospitals for the blood so that it can cover collection costs. In 2019, hospitals paid blood collection centers about $215 per unit of red blood cells.

What hospitals charge patients for transfusions varies, but that figure can run into the thousands of dollars. What patients end up paying out of pocket can vary depending on their health insurance plan and insurance status.

The post isn’t that far off in terms of dollar amounts, but needs clarification and context.

We rate the post as Mostly true.

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