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The Business of Blood

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Thousands of people everyday donate blood.  But what does it cost when you need it?  We recently asked some questions about the business of blood after a WKRG producer brought in a bill with a $10,500 hospital charge for blood and blood processing.

While people give it away, there are significant costs that go into collecting, processing and testing the blood supply to make sure it remains safe.  Testing for various diseases makes up about 25 percent of what non-profit blood banks like Lifesouth, charge hospitals.  Another 50 percent is made up of labor costs.  That includes medical technicians, donor recruiters and trainers.

Lifesouth supplies about 80 percent of the blood used by hospitals and communities in Alabama.  It supplies all of the hospitals in Mobile County, and all but one in Baldwin County.

Springhill Medical Center's Gloria Clayton says the hospitals contract for blood at a certain price--right now, about $200 per unit.  The price varies among blood products.  A pint of whole blood can be split into up to four different products; whole blood, plasma, platelets and a specialized product called cryoprecipitate.  That is used to make products such as anti-hemophilic factor.

Hospitals also do their own testing on top of that done by Lifesouth.  They also incur labor costs just like the blood collectors.

The cost of a pint of blood to patients at a hospital is likely to vary.  Tests are required to properly match and screen blood for antibodies.  Those screens can be expensive, according to Springhill's Clayton.

As for the $10,500 hospital bill--it came from Mobile Infirmary.  A spokesperson for the hospital has not returned repeated calls so that we could ask about how much they charge for blood.  We also reached out to Providence Hospital, who declined to participate in this story.

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