New England Muckrakers

Notable investigative stories from newspapers, websites and TV and radio newsrooms in the six New England states plus “Citizen Muckraker” reports.

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Comparison shopping for a health plan

Ben Margot/AP

Finding out whether a healthcare provider has good or bad reviews can be near impossible--unless you live in California. Having health insurance is now a legal requirement, and consumers will want to know the best and worst healthcare providers.  However, these rankings are hard to find. From the story: "Back in 2000 when Democrat Gray Davis was governor, California began operating an agency called the Office of The Patient Advocate (OPA). According to its website, OPA was created 'to help health plan members get the care they deserve and to promote transparency and quality health care' by publishing an annual 'Quality of Care Report Card.' Continue Reading →

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Outside spending on CT’s governor race tops $10M

via CT Mirror

The Connecticut governor's race between Tom Foley and Dannel P. Malloy is getting expensive. Both candidates reported a combined $1.4 million in expenditures.  A majority of the money was spent on televised attack ads by the Democrat and Republican candidates for governor. From the story: "In filings to state elections officials, the DGA[Democratic governors association] reported another $550,000 in spending to support the re-election of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at 5:12 p.m., but the RGA[Republican governors association] countered 10:41 p.m. with $904,097 to back the GOP challenger, Tom Foley." Read the full story at the CT Mirror. Continue Reading →

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Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa

Photo by Bob Miller/For The Washington Post

Expensive items like iPhones, sofas, and computers can be paid for over monthly installments instead of a lump sum.  Retailers are working with people who can't quite call themselves middle class, giving them access to luxury goods by offering long-term payment plans. The problem?  These payment plans add up to far more money than the retail items are worth.  A sofa-love seat combo worth $1,500 could reach $4,150 if paid for over a two-year, weekly payoff plan. Continue Reading →

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DEA agent steals woman’s identity to create phony Facebook account–And Government says it’s ok

Facebook

Sondra Arquiett was "catfished" in 2010--by a DEA agent who created a fake Facebook account using Arquiett's identity to pursue suspected criminals online. But it doesn't stop there.  The same DEA agent accessed Arquiett's cell phone to post compromising photos of her on the account, free for anyone else with an account to see. The profile has since been deleted, and the Justice Department is investigating the incident (after Buzzfeed broke the story on Oct. 6), but the government doesn't think the DEA agent did anything wrong. Continue Reading →

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Bridgewater State Hospital cited in three restraint-related deaths

JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF

Bradley Burns was an inmate at Bridgewater State Hospital, a "prison for the mentally ill."  Burns was a paranoid schizophrenic who strangled another inmate to death after claiming he saw spiders on the other inmate. After the incident, Bridgewater State clinicians and prison guards kept Burns in solitary confinement, and strapped into five-point restraints for 23 hours a day.  His head, eyes, and hands were put into protective gear—but rather than protect, this equipment evidently killed him. From the story: "Dr. Kevin M. Monahan, a Boston Medical Center cardiologist interviewed by the Globe, said that the clozapine prescribed to Burns as well as his long hours completely immobilized in restraints could have increased the chances that he would suffer an irregular heartbeat, which the medical examiner concluded was the most likely cause of his death. Continue Reading →

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Prison bankers cash in on captive customers

JPay/Facebook

It's expensive to be an inmate in the United States—and families of inmates are often left footing the bill. Costs for basic needs such as toiletries are rising, while inmates wages have remained stagnate.  In some places, prison inmates earn 12 cents an hour.  JPay is a bank that allows people to transfer money to their incarcerated loved ones, but the fees are steep.  Fees can reach from 35 to 45 percent. From the story: "JPay and other prison bankers collect tens of millions of dollars every year from inmates’ families in fees for basic financial services. To make payments, some forego medical care, skip utility bills and limit contact with their imprisoned relatives, the Center for Public Integrity found in a six-month investigation." Read the full investigation at the Center for Public Integrity.  It's part of a two-part series. Continue Reading →

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Asthma hospitalizations on the rise in Connecticut

Jodie M. Gil Photo

Asthma rates or on the rise in Connecticut, and ER visits for asthma-related issues are also increasing. The State Department for Public Health reports people in urban areas New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, and New London were admitted to the ER for asthma-related symptoms twice as often as suburban residents. Minorities were also found to be more prone to asthma, the primary reason being a high number of them live in cities.  The urban environment, and the smog and pollution that comes with is, is the common denominator. From the story: "In 2012, the state DPH published 'The Burden of Asthma in Connecticut,' which reviewed data from school asthma tracking programs, death certificates, federal labor reports, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys, state Medicaid data and hospital records... Continue Reading →

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Is the public at risk from police cruisers?

state police cruiser Massachusetts accident

Over the past five years, Massachusetts State Police have been involved in over 1,800 vehicle crashes--and that's about average for law enforcement around the country. Police drivers appear to be involved in about twice as many accidents per mile as drivers overall--and the state has paid out millions in lawsuits over the years. From the story: "Yet the cost of police crashes — in lives, injuries, and lawsuits — has drawn little notice compared to police shootings, even though, nationwide, crashes are more common, killing dozens of officers and civilians a year and injuring countless more." Read the full story at The Boston Globe Continue Reading →

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