RED CROSS raises blood prices for hospitals

Wednesday, May 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ The American Red Cross is raising by as much as 35 percent the prices it charges the nation's hospitals for blood.

The Red Cross _ which collects about half of the nation's blood supply _ is imposing the increases July 1. Hospitals typically pay about $80 to $120 per pint to cover the cost of collecting and processing the blood.

The increases will range from 10 percent to 35 percent, with the amount varying by region, depending on labor and transportation costs and other expenses. The average cost of a pint could rise to $165.30.

The price increase will primarily affect what hospitals pay for red blood cells. Prices for other blood products, such as platelets and plasma, will stay the same or decline slightly, said spokeswoman Blythe Kubina.

Red Cross officials said the agency has kept prices artificially low while processing costs have risen. For example, the screening of blood donations has greatly expanded, with the agency performing up to 12 tests on each pint of blood. In 1985, just two tests were needed.

Also contributing to the problem is a shrinking pool of donors. Younger people are giving less blood, and to guard against mad cow disease, the Red Cross plans to ban donations from people who have spent as little as three months in Britain or six months anywhere in Europe.

St. Mary's Medical Center in Evansville said it expects the higher prices to raise the hospital's annual costs by $150,000 to $200,000.

``I don't want patients to feel concerned because the price is going up,'' said Janet Enghauser, supervisor of the hospital's blood bank. ``We know that our needs are the same today as they were yesterday, and we don't want the patients to feel that we're going to do any less because of that.''