When a baby is on it's way, there are a ton of things to do and worry about. When we decided we wanted to do Cord Blood banking, I realized there were so many choices, so many companies, and so much research that had to be done. It's very expensive and you only get one shot at it. This is how we decided to choose Americord Cord Blood Banking over CBR (Cord Blood Registry) and the others including Viacord, Stemcyte, Cryocell. Most of the comparisons these companies offer only highlight where they are better (as expected right?).
Step 1 – Cord Blood, Cord Tissue, Placenta Tissue?
When I started researching this I was very confused with all the options.
- Cord Blood – this is the starting point. If you want to do Cord Blood banking you have many many options.
- Cord Tissue – most companies who offer Cord Blood storage also offer Cord Tissue Storage
- Placenta Tissue – Americord is one of the few companies that offer this. Why? It's still “experimental” so most companies don't bother. Not everyone's placenta tissue can/should be saved so check with your doctor.
Winner: Americord. All of this stuff is a bit of a crapshoot (meaning will it ever be needed and be useful), but we wanted to have the option to do Placenta tissue so the winner here was Americord. If placenta tissue banking is not important then you've got many good companies to consider.
I had a billion questions and concerns. At Americord I was given a specific person (advisor?) I could talk to via phone or email and I used their online chat frequently. Other companies also have chat but none assigned me a specific person so I didn't have start from scratch every time I got a new person from a call center. With the amount of times I was calling this was really important for me. Do you ever get tired of calling companies and speaking with reps who know nothing, don't care, speak like robots, and clearly have a very weak command of the English language? Yea. Me too.
Winner: Americord by far. They didn't always the answer but they would actually get back to me. Shock. That rarely happens in the real world. Maybe they get a commission but in general most people I spoke with were super helpful. Other companies including CBR were still helpful, but as with most big more established companies, they just answered the questions but it couldn't match what Americord ( a much younger company) provided.
Price – Blood banking costs how much??
Have your eyes popped out of your head yet? If not then you haven't looked at prices yet. Most of the bigger companies all cost around the same price and offer similar services. The huge cost put blood banking out of reach for many people! We asked many people and even our doctor didn't do it for his kids. Why? Like I said above – it's a bit of a crapshoot. Statistics show that there's a 0.04% chance you will be able to use your privately banked cord blood. So 99.94% of people are throwing away a lot of money. I makes sense to find out if your family has a history of some disease where cord blood may help in the future. If not, you probably don't need it. On the other hand, if you need it, it's not like you can just go to the store and get it. And if it is available to you, you bet it's not gonna be cheap. Think of it as buying insurance.
Americord is almost half the price of the others if, and only if, you are going to bank the cord blood or tissue or placenta for 20 years. Americord is by far the easiest and transparent when it comes to pricing – their price is one price up front for 20 years. If you only do a couple years, it's possible to be the same price or cheaper than americord but what's the point then. After a few years you will stop paying for storage and throw out the blood?
Winner: Americord by far because of their all in one, easy to understand pricing. No math no formulas nothing complicated. It's about 40% cheaper than the competition. You see the price you will pay and you get 20 years out of it. On all the other companies you have select your service, add in extra fees and figure out how many years of storage you will do. Their up front number may seem lower, but it's a trick. Find out what the total will be if you do 20 years. And I hate subscriptions and other fees that keep coming. My mortgage related expenses are more than enough in this department.
Experience, processing, stability, longevity.
So far Americord is winning most categories above depending on your situation. Are they the best in everything? No.
Experience: CBR has stored 500k+ children's samples while Americord has 10k units since 2011. Americord is the newcomer here but not that new. CBR has 5 FDA regulated clicinal trials and they say they are the number 1 choice of OB/GYN and expecting parents. Americord doesn't publish all the same numbers.
Processing: CBR has the highest average published cell recovery rate after red blood reduction at 99%. CBR preserves more cells for a longer period of time during transit: 96.6% and 95.9% at 24 and 48 hours. Americord doesn't provide similar stats.
Stability and longevity: CBR has had 350 families use their stem cells for treatment and owns their own facility and are consistently profitable. Samples are stored in Arizona. Americord outsources their banking to Lifeforce Cryobank in Florida. Is storage in Arizona safer than Florida? Maybe. Americord doesn't publish all the same numbers.
Winner: CBR. They've been around much longer and are probably the most well known. Your hospital may already have a kit from them ready and available. These are all great things and you would expect them to be better from more established companies. And because of these things they charge way more. Too much in my opinion.
Americord offers the highest guarantee of $90,000. The short version of what this means is that if you need to use some of your cord blood and it does't work as its supposed to, you've got up to $90k insurance money to help you find an alternate. What could go wrong? Maybe the blood wasn't processed properly, or maybe something happened during the shipping process. Perhaps the storage wasn't done right – lots of things can happen. But, in order to qualify for the guarantee, your stored sample needs to meet certain requirements such has there must be a minimum amount of blood. If you don't have enough blood in your sample, the guarantee won't apply. This is how it works at Americord.
Public vs Private Cord Blood Banking
You may have heard about Public Blood Banking. If you're not going to pay for private blood banking, you should consider donating cord blood to a public bank so someone in need may get some use from it instead of tossing it away. You may just save a life!
We couldn't do this because it was too late for us. You need to plan at least 3 months ahead because there is a process for this. Read this guide to help prepare yourself.
Does Insurance Cover Blood Banking?
There was one thing that none of the companies could help me with – that was getting information regarding submitting an insurance claim. Most will tell you that “insurance” doesn't usually cover blood banking but you can try to submit it. The problem is you need an invoice with an “insurance procedure code”, and well, they don't do that, nor do they have that information. Why do they say you can “try to submit it” if you really can't submit it? If anyone has an answer to this question, I'd like to hear it.
We chose Americord for cord blood banking making because of their transparency in pricing, lower prices, and ability to respond to my questions effectively. There are a lot of things to consider and I don't think any of the companies are the best in every category, but Americord was the right choice for us. Hopefully we will never need to use it. Good luck with your search and future baby!