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Surge in marrow testing probed



The state’s largest health insurers began noticing at least a year ago that UMass Memorial Medical Center was submitting an extraordinary number of expensive claims for bone marrow testing and charging higher rates than other providers.

But it was not until this week that one reason for the surge in claims became clear: The Worcester hospital hired models who wore short skirts, high heels, and sometimes sported neon blue wigs to recruit bone marrow donors at malls in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Red Sox and Patriots games, and flower shows.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care officials said they saw claims from UMass Memorial nearly triple in 2009 to 2,922, costing the health plan $1.5 million and prompting it to negotiate “a significantly discounted rate for this testing,’’ which went into effect last January. This year Harvard Pilgrim estimates that claims from the hospital for bone marrow testing will balloon to 9,621 by the end of this year.


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