Does Medicare Pay for Blood Transfusions?

Medicare covers the full cost of blood used in transfusions if your hospital or other health care provider gets the blood from a blood bank or the blood is donated to you. You may have to pay some costs if the hospital or other provider has to buy the blood used in your transfusion.

Terry Turner, writer and researcher for RetireGuide
  • Written by
    Terry Turner

    Terry Turner

    Senior Financial Writer and Financial Wellness Facilitator

    Terry Turner has more than 35 years of journalism experience, including covering benefits, spending and congressional action on federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare. He is a Certified Financial Wellness Facilitator through the National Wellness Institute and the Foundation for Financial Wellness and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®).

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    Lee Williams
    Lee Williams, senior editor for RetireGuide.com

    Lee Williams

    Senior Financial Editor

    Lee Williams is a professional writer, editor and content strategist with 10 years of professional experience working for global and nationally recognized brands. He has contributed to Forbes, The Huffington Post, SUCCESS Magazine, AskMen.com, Electric Literature and The Wall Street Journal. His career also includes ghostwriting for Fortune 500 CEOs and published authors.

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    Christian Worstell
    Christian Worstell, Medicare expert

    Christian Worstell

    Medicare Expert

    Christian Worstell is a licensed health insurance agent and an established writer in the sector, with articles featured in Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and more. His work has positively impacted beneficiaries nationwide and empowers them to make strong health care decisions.

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  • Published: June 4, 2021
  • Updated: June 23, 2023
  • 6 min read time
  • This page features 10 Cited Research Articles
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APA Turner, T. (2023, June 23). Does Medicare Pay for Blood Transfusions? RetireGuide.com. Retrieved April 16, 2024, from https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/treatments/blood-transfusions/

MLA Turner, Terry. "Does Medicare Pay for Blood Transfusions?" RetireGuide.com, 23 Jun 2023, https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/treatments/blood-transfusions/.

Chicago Turner, Terry. "Does Medicare Pay for Blood Transfusions?" RetireGuide.com. Last modified June 23, 2023. https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/treatments/blood-transfusions/.

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Blood Transfusion Coverage at a Glance
Medicare PlanBlood Transfusion Coverage
Part A (Inpatient)Covers 100% of costs of blood from blood banks if you are a hospital inpatient. If the hospital has to buy blood, you pay for the first three units — or replace the first three units with donations — each calendar year. You are also responsible for your Part A deductible.
Part B (Outpatient)Covers a portion of costs when you receive a transfusion in an outpatient setting. You are responsible for the Part B deductible and a copayment for handling and processing, which varies by location.
Part C (Medicare Advantage)Mirror Part A and Part B coverage but may provide more benefits.
Part D (Prescription Drugs)N/A
Supplemental InsuranceMay help cover Original Medicare out-of-pocket costs associated with blood transfusions.

When Does Medicare Pay for Blood Transfusions?

Medicare will help cover the cost of blood transfusions, but you may be responsible for the cost of the first three units of blood you receive each year.

How much of the cost Medicare covers depends on how much blood you receive, whether you receive it as a hospital inpatient or in an outpatient setting, whether it comes from a blood bank and whether you donate the blood beforehand or find a donor.

Health conditions or situations that may require a blood transfusion include:
  • Anemia
  • Bleeding disorders – such as hemophilia
  • Cancer
  • Organ transplants
  • Serious injuries – such as car crashes
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Surgery

Even though blood is often donated to blood banks, there are still handling and processing fees associated with the blood you receive in a transfusion. These include the cost of drawing the blood from a donor, testing, storage, transportation, salaries and other costs. You may be responsible for handling and processing fees in certain cases.

Facts About Blood Transfusions
  • A typical adult has nine to 10 pints of blood in their body.
  • One in seven hospitalized patients in the United States require blood transfusions.
  • A “unit” of blood is 525 milliliters — about a pint.
  • The average blood transfusion requires about three units.
  • People injured in a car accident may need as many as 100 units of blood.

Your Costs for Blood Transfusions Under Medicare

Your out-of-pocket costs for a transfusion can vary widely from less than $200 to well over a thousand dollars per unit of blood, depending on where the transfusion takes place and where the blood comes from.

Typically, you are responsible for the cost of the first three units of blood each year — unless it comes from a blood bank or it is donated specifically for your transfusion. You can donate blood ahead of time in some cases. A friend or family member may also donate blood on your behalf.

Original Medicare — Medicare Part A and Part B — cover blood transfusions in different ways and in different medical settings.

Given the out-of-pocket costs required for blood transfusions, it’s wise for any Medicare beneficiary to understand how and when this procedure is covered.

Medicare Part A Coverage for Blood Transfusions

Medicare Part A hospital insurance covers your care if you receive a blood transfusion as a hospital inpatient.

Hospitals typically get their blood from blood banks. If that’s where the blood for your transfusion comes from, you pay nothing.

Your Medicare Part A Costs if the Hospital Has to Buy Blood for Your Transfusion
  • You have to pay for the first three units of blood you receive each calendar year, or
  • You have to replace the three units of blood through donations.

You are also responsible for your Medicare Part A deductible, which is $1,632 for each benefit period in 2024.

Medicare Part B Coverage for Blood Transfusions

Medicare Part B medical insurance helps cover blood transfusions you receive in an outpatient setting. You must be enrolled in Medicare Part B, and you will be responsible for your deductible — $240 in 2024.

You will be responsible for your Medicare Part B deductible, and you will have an out-of-pocket copayment for handling and processing services. This amount may vary depending on where you receive treatment.

If the health care provider is enrolled in Medicare and gets the blood from a blood bank, you will not have to pay for the blood and won’t have to replace the first three units through donations.

If the provider has to buy the blood, you have to either pay for the first three units or replace them through donations just as you would under Medicare Part A.

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Do Medigap and Medicare Advantage Plans Cover Blood Transfusions?

Medigap policies and Medicare Advantage plans may also affect how much you have to pay out-of-pocket for a blood transfusion. Both are sold by private insurers.

Medigap policies, also referred to as Medicare Supplement insurance, work with Original Medicare to help cover your out-of-pocket costs.

All Medigap plans cover your costs for the first three pints of blood each year. Medigap also covers all or part of your copayments and coinsurance, depending on which plan you have. Only Medigap Plan C and Plan F will cover your Part B deductible.

Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurers and replace Original Medicare coverage. Federal law requires that Medicare Advantage plans cover everything Medicare Part A and Part B cover, but they may provide additional benefits that Original Medicare does not offer.

Medicare Advantage plans vary widely in regard to the additional benefits they provide. While Original Medicare requires you to pay for the first three pints of blood in a calendar year, you may find a Medicare Advantage plan that will cover part or all of that cost for you.

You cannot have both a Medigap policy and a Medicare Advantage plan at the same time. You will have to choose one or the other.

FAQs About Using Medicare for Blood Transfusions

How long will Medicare pay for blood transfusions?
Under Medicare Part A, you may be responsible for the first three pints of blood you receive in a hospital inpatient setting and in an outpatient setting each calendar year. Medicare will cover the rest — aside from your deductibles and a Part B coinsurance payment — for the rest of the calendar year. The process restarts on January 1 of the following year.
How many pints of blood will Medicare pay for?
If your hospital or outpatient facility gets its blood from a blood bank, Medicare covers the full cost of all blood transfusions. If the facility has to buy the blood, you are responsible for paying for the first three pints or for replacing the blood with donations.
How much does a blood transfusion cost?
The cost of blood transfusions can vary significantly depending on the healthcare facility and provider. Typically, the price per pint of blood ranges from $200 to $300. Additional expenses associated with processing, storage and transportation can increase the total cost to as high as $3,000. It's important to note that these costs are subject to variation based on specific circumstances and factors involved in the procedure.
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Last Modified: June 23, 2023

10 Cited Research Articles

  1. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2022). Costs. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/basics/costs/medicare-costs
  2. Cataife, G. and Pagano, M.B. (2018, April 6). How Much Does a Blood Transfusion Cost? Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/trf.14543
  3. Sutherly, B. (2021, April 28). Area Patients Charged Thousands for Blood Transfusions. Retrieved from https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/local/area-patients-charged-thousands-for-blood-transfusions/fciNCSlTAgGIlyQbCkuizN/
  4. Hemez, C. (2016, December 21). Blood Transfusion Costs. Retrieved from https://yaleglobalhealthreview.com/2016/12/21/blood-transfusion-costs/
  5. Palmer, J. (2014, July 5). What Many Donors Don’t Know: Their Blood Is Sold. Retrieved from https://www.oklahoman.com/article/4985779/what-many-donors-dont-know-their-blood-is-sold
  6. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (1996, May 24). National Coverage Determination (NCD) for Blood Platelet Transfusions (110.8). Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/medicare-coverage-database/view/ncd.aspx?NCDId=44
  7. Forbes, J.M. (1991, May). Blood Transfusion Costs: A Multicenter Study. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2020994/#:~:text=To%20this%20cost%20was%20added,to%20the%20patient%20was%20%24219
  8. American Red Cross. (n.d.). Importance of the Blood Supply. Retrieved from https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/how-blood-donations-help/blood-needs-blood-supply.html
  9. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. (n.d.). Blood Transfusion. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/blood-bone-marrow-treatments
  10. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). Blood. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/blood