July is observed as “Cord Blood Awareness Month” in the United States. Sponsored by the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, the campaign aims to raise awareness among expectant parents and the general public of the importance of preserving umbilical cord blood, as well as the valuable stem cells that it contains. Typically, stem cells come from three different sources like – cord blood, bone marrow, and peripheral blood. Cord blood stem cells are found in the blood of the umbilical cord and placenta (after birth) when a healthy baby is born. Cord blood banking and storage (via cryopreservation) preserves the cord blood cells for potential use in treating more than 80 different diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia, sickle cell disease, and many others. With their instant availability at birth and demonstrated utility, cord blood is quickly becoming a well-known source of stem cells by transplant physicians. A clear understanding of the key billing, coding and reimbursement guidelines for cord blood preservation and related processes is essential to submit accurate claims and receive appropriate reimbursement. Healthcare providers rely on medical billing outsourcing companies to code and bill accurately.

The 2021 campaign is a perfect platform to make parents aware that after a baby is born and the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, the blood left in the umbilical cord can be collected, and the stem cells extracted can be stored for potential use in a future medical application. A tube-like structure, the umbilical cord connects the foetus to the placenta in the mother’s womb, providing nutrients and removing waste. Cord blood (also called “placental blood”), is blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta following the birth of a baby and after the umbilical cord is cut after delivery. Cord blood can help nurture life, long after a baby’s birth and provides a source of stem cells if the need ever arises for a stem cell transplant. This is because cord contains many types of stem cells with an abundance of “Hematopoietic Stem Cells” (HSCs) that have the natural ability to turn into other types of cells, regenerate, renew, and replace damaged cells with healthy ones. These unique qualities make stem cells valuable. Parents have a choice between donating cord blood to a public bank for free, or paying to store it for their family in a private bank.

Reports show that more than 40,000 cord blood transplants have been performed worldwide and cord blood continues to be investigated in clinical trials to treat 80+ different conditions. The month-long observance aims to provide adequate support related to stem cell research, providing new hope to patients and their families. The month highlights the importance of cord blood, its advantages, and how it can be utilized to eliminate several diseases. Cord blood stem cell transplants are used for different purposes like – replacing and regenerating damaged or diseased bone marrow, correcting potential genetic defects (sibling/allogeneic transplantation), cellular therapy and regenerative medicine and treatment for different types of blood cancers. Typically, cord blood can be stored for over 23.5 years.

The campaign also encourages donors to donate cord blood by emphasizing how painless the procedure is. Cord blood collection is performed in a safe and non-invasive manner and does not interfere with the baby’s birth plan and a mothers bonding time with the baby. Following a baby’s birth, the umbilical cord will be clamped and cut and the blood collected is then carefully cryopreserved (frozen) to ensure the integrity of the cells until they are needed for treatment. Parents can either choose to donate cord blood to a public bank or preserve it at a private bank. Cord blood donated and stored at a public bank can be used to save the lives of people who match the genetic profile or it can be used in the future for a child, siblings or other relatives. Cord blood taken from a baby’s umbilical cord is always a perfect match for the baby. In addition, immediate family members are more likely to also be a match for the banked cord blood. In fact, siblings have a 25 percent chance of being a perfect match and a 50 percent chance of being a partial match. On the other hand, parents (who provide half the markers used in matching) have a 100 percent chance of being a partial match. Even extended family members (like aunts, uncles, grandparents) have a higher probability of being a match and could possibly benefit from the banked cord blood.

There are several rules and considerations when it comes to billing umbilical cord blood preservation. An experienced medical billing company can help healthcare providers report the right codes, bill services correctly, and receive appropriate payment for services rendered. Medical codes for Umbilical Cord Blood Harvesting and Storage include –

ICD-10 Codes

  • Z52.001 Unspecified donor, stem cells
  • Z52.011 Autologous donor, stem cells
  • Z52.092 Other blood donor, stem cells

CPT Codes

  • 38205 Blood-derived hematopoietic progenitor cell harvesting for transplantation, per collection; allogeneic
  • 38206 Blood-derived hematopoietic progenitor cell harvesting for transplantation, per collection; autologous
  • 38207 Transplant preparation of hematopoietic progenitor cells; cryopreservation and storage
  • 88240 Cryopreservation, freezing and storage of cells, each cell line

HCPCS Codes

  • S2140 Cord blood harvesting for transplantation, allogeneic
  • S2142 Cord blood-derived stem-cell transplantation, allogeneic

It is estimated that four million births occur in the United States each year. Even though the statistics for birth may be high, cord-blood is collected only up to 5-10 percent of the time. In all the remaining cases, it is discarded as medical waste. This is particularly due to lack of knowledge or awareness regarding cord blood procedures, as well as the benefits it can provide for mankind. This is the sole reason why the month of July was separately designated as “Cord Blood Awareness Month” by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The umbilical cord blood stem cells were first discovered in 1978. From there, physicians became more aware of the uses of cord blood and began to research the diseases it can cure. It was also discovered that cord blood was more effective than a bone marrow transplant. The first successful cord blood transplant was performed in Paris in the year 1988. In 1992, Dr. Pablo Rubinstein established the first umbilical cord bank. Later, in the year 1998 National Marrow Donor Program launched the cord blood program.

Over the years, the scope of the campaign widened with several activities being arranged all through the month of July – to create awareness among expectant parents and the general public. Activities include – volunteering at a hospital where there is a cord blood bank, making or sharing blog posts on social media, email or other ways (about cord blood awareness), hosting webinars about cord blood transfers, displaying posters at local health organizations and so on. People supporting this campaign wear green ribbons/wrist bands as part of stem cell donation awareness.

Join the “Cord Blood Awareness” campaign this July. Create widespread awareness about the importance of umbilical cord blood and its enormous value.