Model Marketing (and New Hampshire’s $4,300 cheek swabs)
I have been asked many times to register for bone marrow donor registries. I’m told that there are severe shortages of potential donors from my ethnic group, and that ethnicity correlates with the probability of successful match. I’ve been solicited again and again over email listservs in college and here at medical school, reminded of the life-saving potential of a simple cheek swab (and subsequent marrow harvesting, if matched). One particularly aggressive college classmate told the assembled masses that ”choosing not to donate is essentially deciding to let somebody die. And, yes, you are responsible for that.”
Strong words, those.
However, I have never been asked to register as a bone marrow donor by ”flirtatious models in heels, short skirts, and lab coats.” Not that I would have found that approach particularly persuasive.
What might seem, at first glance, like an innovative approach taken from the playbook of marketing professionals, has instead been depicted as a nefarious attempt to scam insurers out of around $4000 per cheek swab tested.
“They got people to do this without telling them it could be a charge of $4,300 against their insurance,” he said.
New Hampshire passed a law in 2006 requiring insurers to pay for tissue-typing tests for potential bone marrow donors. But at the time, Mr. Boffetti said, proponents told lawmakers that each test would cost $100 or less.
How absurd! This group should be lauded for their efforts to increase the pool of potential bone marrow donors! That non-profits and charities are adopting the for-profit sector’s successful marketing techniques is a sign of progress, not nefarious intent!
Here’s a thought for New Hampshire’s ”senior assistant attorney general:” there would be no need to investigate and vilify this group for…. I don’t even know exactly. The article doesn’t imply they’ve done anything illegal or unethical. They seem to have simply billed insurers as the law allows them to.
This is one of those problems that seems like it could only be caused by idiotic regulation. Getting a cheek swab and tested for bone marrow donor registration is clearly not a risk against which one needs to be insured. It’s an elective procedure that has absolutely zero health benefit for the insured party. New Hampshire’s legislators, in their infinite wisdom, decided to mandate coverage anyways.
And somehow the Times portrays the models as the most unseemly part of this saga.