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Higher Blood Costs Putting A Squeeze on Hospitals

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RALEIGH — Blood donations are called the gift of life.Soon, the cost of that gift is going up for hospitals nationwide.

Hospitals cannot survive without a healthy blood supply. That is why administrators are concerned about the

American Red Cross

raising its blood prices. Starting July 1, it will charge up to 35 percent more.

Many hospitals will have to revisit their budgets to find a way to pay for the extra costs. Patients will also have to pick up part of the bill.



, officials say they will have to pay about 23 percent more. That means instead of paying $144 for a unit of blood, the cost will be $193.

Combined with a similar price hike last year, the new prices will consume about $1 million of WakeMed's budget.

Some patients will see the increase reflected in their bills, and the higher cost could also affect some of WakeMed's community outreach projects.

"Unfortunately it doesn't work like in the movies where you see somebody hook oneperson up with a blood line to another person and blood just flows from one person to the other. It can't be done that way. There are hundreds of regulated steps and safety measures [involved in getting] blood from a donor's arm to a patient's arm," says Debbie Estes of the

Triangle Chapter of the American Red Cross


The cost of blood is going up because the Red Cross has undercharged hospitals for years. Estes says that has resulted in a $400 million debt.

The non-profit organization also says it is more expensive to do 12 tests on each donation compared to just two tests a few years ago.

"If we are going to remain in place providing about 50 percent of the nation's blood supply and providing a safe as possible blood supply, then we're going to have to extend those costs," says Estes.

The North Carolina Hospital Association says some hospitals that cannot afford the price increases may have to close.

Red Cross officials say they also expect prices to increase again next year, but they could not say how much.


Ericka Lewis, Reporter
Ron Pittman, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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