As we head west to the Hawaiian Islands for the Summer Meeting, this issue has come to prominence.
In theory and bylaws, we are an association of independent blood centers who serve our communities. In practice, more and more blood centers are part of a larger group. There are the affiliations and unions at the governance level (BSI, Versiti, ITxM, etc.). These affect ABC membership directly, and at the Annual Meeting we dealt with this issue through bylaws changes. But there are also purchasing groups, blood supplier groups, at least one insurance group, and other affiliations. ABC’s relations with them are varied, and changing. Most of these relations are informal, coming from overlaps of memberships. We are always interested to hear what our members want to say, in whatever forum.
As I write this, I am at a Texas state-level conference dealing with Zika. Questions about testing, and the payment for that testing, for pregnant women and other patients, are common. Various state and local public health laboratories have begun testing, and more are following suit. The public health community however, is, as always, working with limited resources. This brings up the issues of Zika for our blood community-who will they screen, when will they screen, and who will pay for it? As I write, it is not clear if or when the Congress will approve a large amount of money specifically for Zika. At this meeting, it was revealed the recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention grants gave $1.5 million to Texas-not a lot to spread through a large state. Five million went to Puerto Rico, which is entirely appropriate in proportion and indeed not enough for the size of their crisis. If more federal money is appropriated, ABC has asked for our blood centers to be considered for direct inclusion, but it is not clear if this will be an option. This is a hard ask-this has not been the system of paying for blood safety improvements (if indeed there has been any “system”). We are hoping the RAND study will provide some guidance about what the best method of paying for safety innovations and improvements, as well as other aspects of blood supply, might be going forward. However, we know it will be some months before their report comes out, and presumably quite a few more before any recommendations can be put into action.
Until then, we will work with the resources we have, in ways that we can. ABC will continue to listen to our members and advocate for them. We are interested in your input and feedback as we navigate maybe the most turbulent times in recent history. Feel free to contact me, other Board members, Christine, Dr. Katz, Mack, or other ABC staff to express your concerns.
See you in Honolulu!
Susan Rossmann, MD, PhD; Board President; firstname.lastname@example.org