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Ask the Doc

March 2011 • Published in The Daily Press, Ashland, WI

Q: During a recent surgery, I had a blood transfusion and was surprised when I was billed by the hospital for the blood I received. I donate voluntarily and don’t receive any compensation, so why do I have to pay for blood when I need it? I thought Memorial Blood Centers was a non-profit.

Memorial Blood Centers is very proud to be a 501 (c) (3) non-profit with a 60-year legacy of supplying blood and blood components to hospitals as they work to save and sustain the lives of patients in their care. Although hospitals do not pay specifically for the blood products we provide, there are additional costs associated with the blood donation process and administrative hospital overhead that may be passed on to patients receiving donated blood via transfusion.

As a mission-driven and volunteer-rich organization, Memorial Blood Centers relies on the generosity of individuals, corporations, foundations, community groups, and others that join with us as financial contributors, blood donors and drive sponsors, and volunteers. Approximately 80% of all operational expenses go directly to support the delivery of the products and services we provide.

We are especially grateful for the generous gift every volunteer blood donor provides because, simply put, without those who voluntarily donate blood people would die. Blood cannot be synthetically made. There is no substitute. It does not last forever—red blood cells expire after 42 days. And Memorial Blood Centers, along with all blood center operations, is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) whose guidelines stipulate that only blood donated voluntarily can be used for life-saving transfusions. So while we do not compensate donors for the blood they give, we also do not charge hospital customers for the blood product itself. There are, however, a variety of costs that are passed on to our hospital partners. While Memorial Blood Centers takes aggressive steps to streamline our operations and reduce costs wherever possible, we are reimbursed by hospitals for costs associated with collecting, testing, and preparing the blood for transfusion, for example:

  • Blood collection and testing equipment and supplies
  • Time and talent provided by experienced interviewers who screen potential donors, skilled phlebotomists who collect blood, highly-trained laboratory technologists who test donated blood to ensure its safety, and other professionals involved in our blood banking operations
  • Preparation of blood components from whole blood (e.g., red cells, plasma, and platelets)
  • Blood product labeling, storage, and distribution
  • Vehicles from our bloodmobile fleet and operating overhead for our donor centers
    Each hospital, at its discretion, establishes a fee schedule that could include additional charges related to the administration of the blood provided for transfusion and may pass on these costs to patients.

At Memorial Blood Centers, we are committed to full financial transparency. You can learn more about our organization’s funding, governance, and operations in the About Us section. You also will find information on Memorial Blood Centers’ donor center locations and community blood drives where you can make a blood donation and help meet the demand at Memorial Medical Center and other area hospitals for the blood needed to save lives.