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Report: Marrow Registry Spent Thousands on Sexy Recruiters

Dec 17, 2010 – 12:37 PM
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Mara Gay

Mara Gay Contributor

(Dec. 17) -- A bone marrow campaign went all out to make potential donors an offer they couldn't resist by spending $60,000 a week to hire models in short skirts and heels to ask people to sign up for the lifesaving registry, investigators say.

But what the Massachusetts registry didn't tell unsuspecting do-gooders is that its costly operation was billing insurance companies up to $4,300 for each DNA swab. Most labs charge about $100.

"They just came up to me and were like, 'Do you want to save a child's life?' And you can't say no thank you," Samantha Pushee, who signed up for the registry after being approached by one of the marrow models, told WHDH-TV in New Hampshire. "It said that my insurance company would be billed for it, but I never imagined it being $4,000."

Officials in New Hampshire are investigating the registry, Caitlin Raymond International, after the Manchester mayor complained that the city was billed $8,000 when two of its employees agreed to join the registry.

New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney called the practice "outrageous" and said in a statement that Caitlin Raymond had agreed to stop recruiting in New Hampshire until the investigation is complete.

James Boffetti, New Hampshire's senior state attorney general, told AOL News today that he's worried Caitlin Raymond's business practices would discourage people from donating to other registries.

Boffetti said the nonprofit registry, an arm of UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass., engaged in "an aggressive marketing program" by instructing its models to wear heels and skirts to find donors at grocery stores, malls, sporting events and colleges.

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"The models worked the crowds, if you will," Boffetti told The New York Times. "We were told basically they would engage a lot of younger men with some sort of flirtatious thing: 'Hey, don't you want to be a hero? Come on, do this!'"

In a statement, a UMass Memorial spokesman said the registry was cooperating with officials and called its work a "lifesaving effort." The hospital also said it believed its billing practices were fair.

"UMass Memorial has reviewed its billing practices for this test and confirmed to its best knowledge that it is appropriately paid based on the negotiated rate in the contract between the respective insurance company and UMass Memorial," the spokesman said.
Filed under: Nation, Health
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