WASHINGTON — Social media is full of people making unusual claims about everyday things, like blood donations. One post claims that the blood you donate for free makes a bunch of other people a pretty profit.
It’s a typical social media post that’s meant to provoke.
The tweet reads: “Today I learned the Red Cross sells your donated blood to hospitals for $150 and then the hospital charges you thousands for a blood transfusion.”
Does the Red Cross sell your blood to hospitals and then do hospitals charge you for a transfusion of donated blood?
- The Red Cross
- Standard Transfusion Costs Area Hospitals
- Ge Bai PhD, an accounting professor from the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School.
The tweet is true, but it lacks important context.
WHAT WE FOUND:
The Red Cross said in a statement: Yes, it charges hospitals for blood, but on a “cost-recovery basis.”
That statement outlined some of those costs: staffing, testing, equipment, advertising, right down to the storage of blood. It all costs money.
But, even that fee doesn’t even cover all the costs of their operation, it only covers 98.7% of it, according to the Red Cross.
As far as the cost to a patient for a transfusion, that has a price tag, too.
Our expert Dr. Ge Bai explained hospitals have expenses for transfusions. It has to cover the cost of the blood, the pay for staff to administer it, and a host of other costs associated with getting blood into your veins.
“If the hospital charges the same amount as how much they pay for the blood, they're going to go bankrupt,” Bai said.
What does a transfusion run in our area?
According to the latest cost charts, Medstar charges around $1,300. George Washington University Hospital charges around $1,500. INOVA Alexandria costs around $1,000.
“However, there are instances where hospitals charge an unreasonably high price for the blood as well as other procedures in order to make an abnormally high profit,” Bai said.
Across the country, the cost of a transfusion is a different story. Adventist Health in Glendale, California charges $5,500 for a transfusion.
So yes, the claim in the tweet about the costs of blood and transfusion is true. But it leaves out crucial context.