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This week is Blood Advocacy Week, a collaborative initiative of America’s Blood Centers that is bringing together members of the blood community, advocates, providers, patients, and more to advance policies that promote the value of blood to patients, communities, and our healthcare system. There are a number of ways you, as a Members of Congress can act to supporting our nation’s blood supply a national priority and to ensure that blood is always available for all those who need it. I urge you to take key actions to strengthen and diversify America’s donor base. First, based on changing evidence, FDA is making donor deferral changes that impact hundreds of thousands of individuals who were previously unable to donate blood. These changes particularly impact many veterans and gay and bisexual men. There is an immediate need for federal funding that can be used locally by blood centers to amplify their education and awareness efforts to reach out to and welcome back impacted potential donors, helping to ensuring current and future patient needs are met through an expanded base of eligible donors. To reach as many impacted donors as possible, I am asking you to introduce legislation to provide targeted federal funding that can be used locally by blood centers to amplify their education and awareness efforts. Second, a blood transfusion given as soon as possible following a traumatic injury has been proven to save lives. One study found up to 5% increased odds of mortality for every minute of delay in access to blood. Despite these findings, significant barriers currently prevent the expansion of pre-hospital blood transfusions. For example, Medicare payments are currently insufficient to support the use of blood by Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers, and state and local licensure requirements can vary regarding the type of care a paramedic is allowed to provide. Making long-term reforms would allow more patients to receive life-saving blood products before reaching a hospital, saving more lives. To achieve this, I am asking you to introduce legislation to establish a demonstration program through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) examining the use of pre-hospital blood. Third, donor diversity is critical to patient care. A wide variety of conditions that disproportionately impact minority populations require ongoing blood transfusions as part of a patient’s care management, and these patients require blood that is closely matched beyond just blood type. This type of closely matched blood is most likely to come from someone of a similar racial and ethnic background. We need a blood supply that’s as diverse as the nation that depends on it. To achieve this, I am asking you to introduce legislation to develop and implement a new pilot program that would provide grant funding directly to blood centers nationwide to help them attract more diverse and younger blood donors, and increase the testing required to find the closely matched blood necessary to meet every patient’s need. Lastly, blood transfusions can often be a critical therapy as part of quality end-of-life care. Unfortunately, to receive a blood transfusion, patients often delay enrolling in the Medicare hospice program or forgo utilizing it altogether. This prevents patients, their families, and caregivers from receiving holistic care, including pain management, education, and emotional and spiritual support. Expanding the availability of blood transfusions within the Medicare hospice program would ensure that all patients can benefit from the program while maintaining the quality of life provided by blood transfusions. To achieve this, I am asking you to introduce legislation to establish a demonstration program through the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to allow reimbursement for palliative blood transfusions outside of the hospice benefit. Thank you for your focus on this matter and for making strengthening America’s blood supply a national priority. I look forward to your prompt reply.
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