BOSTON (AP) - A newspaper is reporting that a lab that used models to recruit donors for a bone marrow registry has now suspended its recruiting in three New England states.
UMass Memorial Health Care in Worcester (WUS’-tur) had already stopped recruiting donors in New Hampshire for the Caitlin Raymond International Registry. But The Boston Globe reports that it also suspended donor recruitment in Massachusetts and Rhode Island on Saturday.
UMass Memorial spokesman Robert Brogna (BROH’-nyah) said Tuesday he couldn’t comment on the newspaper’s report.
Authorities in New Hampshire and Massachusetts are looking into why the lab billed insurance companies more than $4,000 for DNA tests that were supposed to cost about $100 and whether the workers took samples from people who didn’t qualify because of age or medical issues.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
BOSTON (AP) _ Justin Judkins was approached at a shopping mall by a pretty young model, “all dolled up,” wearing high heels, a white lab coat and electric blue wig.
The woman asked him if he wanted to be a hero and save a child’s life. How could he say no?
Like thousands of other people, Judkins agreed to allow bone marrow registry workers to swab the inside of his cheek for a DNA test _ lured by a recruiting pitch that an official with a national donor registry calls “a little unusual.”
Now, authorities in New Hampshire and Massachusetts are investigating why the lab billed insurance companies more than $4,000 for the tests that were supposed to cost about $100 and whether the workers took samples from people who didn’t qualify because of age or medical issues.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jim Boffetti in New Hampshire said a staff member at UMass Memorial Health Care Inc. was in charge of picking the models and telling them what to wear.
“The instructions were to wear black heels, short black skirts, white lab coats, and in some cases, colorful wigs, blue wigs, purple wigs,” Boffetti said.
“Using models to try and get people to sign up _ there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is if they’re overcharging insurance companies and if they are not properly advising potential donors,” he said.
The UMass Memorial lab, based in Worcester, may have spent as much as $4 million on the models over the past 18 months, Boffetti said. The Boston modeling agency hired by the lab was paid $40,000 to $50,000 per week.
The models were paid $75 an hour to approach people in shopping malls in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. They also set up shop at the Boston Marathon and at Red Sox and New England Patriots games, Boffetti said.