consumers

Health Care
3:34 am
Thu January 22, 2015

Senator 'Astounded' That Nonprofit Hospitals Sue Poorest Patients

Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph, Mo., is changing its name to Mosaic Life Care. It was the focus of an NPR and ProPublica investigation into its billing practices.
Steve Hebert for ProPublica

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 2:11 pm

NPR and ProPublica have been reporting about nonprofit hospitals that seize the wages of lower-income and working-class patients. Now, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says hospitals could be breaking the law by suing these patients and docking their pay. And he wants some answers.

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Energy
2:45 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Regional Power Operator Provides Brief on State of Grid

ISO-New England's control room.
ISO-New England

New England's electricity grid operator said natural gas pipeline bottlenecks and retirement of aging power plants could put pressure on the price of energy.

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Health Insurance
2:59 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Tax Preparers Get Ready To Be Bearers Of Bad News About Health Law

Lou Graham prepares taxes in Connecticut and is ready to answer client questions about the Affordable Care Act.
Jeff Cohen WNPR

Originally published on Sat January 24, 2015 4:17 pm

Are you thinking about tax day yet? Your friendly neighborhood tax preparer is. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen declared this tax season one of the most complicated ever, partly because this is the first year that the Affordable Care Act will show up on your tax form.

Tax preparers from coast to coast are trying to get ready. Sue Ellen Smith manages an H&R Block office in San Francisco, and she is expecting things to get busy soon.

"This year taxes and health care intersect in a brand-new way," Smith says.

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Business
6:48 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Dollar's Rise Is Good News For The U.S., For Now

A pedestrian passes a currency exchange in London Jan. 5. The value of the U.S. dollar has risen about 15 percent against the euro since last summer.
Andy Rain EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed January 14, 2015 8:17 pm

If you've traveled outside the U.S. recently, or sent your U.S.-made products abroad, you've probably noticed that the dollar is getting stronger. The stronger dollar is the sign of a healthier U.S. economy, but its strength has the potential to erode growth.

There are a number of factors behind the dollar's rise, says economist Jens Nordvig, a currency expert at Nomura Securities. The main one is the health of the U.S. economy.

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Higher Education
9:22 am
Wed January 14, 2015

UMass Amherst Replacing Book Store With Amazon

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 4:31 pm

UMass Amherst will replace its on-campus textbook store later this year with a virtual store operated by Amazon.

  Under a five-year contract Amazon will provide online textbook ordering through the UMass Amherst website, operate an on-campus pick up location and provide free delivery to off campus addresses in Amherst and five surrounding communities.  UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said the change is being made to save students money.

  "Up to about $380 annually per student based on national estimates of what students pay for books," said Blaguszewski.

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Technology
5:20 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

A Closer Look At Obama's Plan To Protect Consumer Data

President Obama speaks Tuesday at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Va.
Pool Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 6:55 pm

This week, in the lead up to his State of the Union address, President Obama is talking about cybersecurity — how to ensure our safety in the digital world.

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Unlimited Power
4:20 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

For PURA, Questions Abound About How to Set Rates Right

Guido Gerding Wikimedia Commons

Back in 2011, a few things changed for PURA, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. Its staff was cut, and it developed a closer relationship with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Some of PURA's budget and its hiring authority shifted over to DEEP, and the move changed the way the board does its main job: reviewing the performance of power companies.

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Technology
4:06 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Online Security: A Battle You Just Can’t Win?

Hlib Shabashnyi/iStock Thinkstock

The highly publicized hacking of Sony Pictures and Monday’s infiltration of Central Command’s Twitter account are just two of the most recent examples of Internet crime.

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Metcalf on Music
4:25 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

Hail, Hail Classical Music

Roger Reuver Creative Commons

For the past several years, I have taught an informal, one-credit seminar at The Hartt School called "Communicating With Your Audience."

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Bogus Charges
3:43 pm
Mon December 29, 2014

T-Mobile May Owe You A Refund

Senator Richard Blumenthal and Jessical Rosenworcel
Credit Lucy Nalpathanchil

T-mobile customers may qualify for a refund after the cell phone company agreed to a $90 million dollar settlement over allegations of mobile cramming. The practice of "cramming" includes when third-party companies add bogus charges to monthly bills.

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Product Safety
11:32 am
Tue December 23, 2014

Keurig Recalls 7 Million Coffee Machines Following Reports Of Burns

Keurig is recalling 7 million Mini Plus Brewing Systems, with the model number K10 (previously identified as B31).
Brian Snyder Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 12:50 pm

Keurig, the company that makes the popular single-serve coffee machines, is recalling 7 million Mini Plus Brewing Systems, with the model number K10 (previously identified as B31), the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission announced today.

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Electric Rates
8:06 am
Tue December 23, 2014

State Legislators Call for Lower Residential Electric Rates

Creative Commons / angeloangelo

Legislators and lobbyists are calling for the state's largest electric utility to lower its fixed residential charge with a new proposal that would set Connecticut Light and Power's fixed rate at $10.00 a month.

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Medical Bills
5:03 am
Fri December 19, 2014

When Nonprofit Hospitals Sue Their Poorest Patients

Keith Herie is swamped in debt from medical issues he and his wife encountered starting about a decade ago. Heartland hospital is seizing 10 percent of his paycheck and 25 percent of his wife's wages, and has placed a lien on their home.
Steve Hebert for ProPublica

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 10:13 am

On the eastern edge of St. Joseph, Mo., lies the small city's only hospital, a landmark of modern brick and glass buildings. Everyone in town knows Heartland Regional Medical Center — many residents gave birth to their children here. Many rush here when they get hurt or sick.

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Business
4:53 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

New Popularity Of L.L. Bean Boots Sparks Scramble To Fill Orders

A surge in popularity of L.L. Bean boots has the Maine company scrambling to fill orders.
Murray Carpenter NPR

Originally published on Fri January 2, 2015 5:27 pm

L.L. Bean's iconic rubber and leather boots — long worn by practical and preppie New Englanders — have swung back into fashion with young people and are more popular than ever.

The recent surge in demand has the company scrambling to fill orders, upgrading its manufacturing equipment and adding a third shift at its Maine boot factories.

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Economy
6:21 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Mortgage Giants Ease Down Payments For First-Time Homebuyers

A new directive from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will allow first-time homebuyers to put down as little as 3 percent.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 8:05 pm

A federal directive will go into effect Saturday making it easier for some Americans to come up with a down payment to buy a house.

The vast majority of home loans are guaranteed by the government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The regulator in charge of Fannie and Freddie will allow first-time homebuyers to put down as little as 3 percent.

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Connecticut Business Briefs
9:43 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Fuel Affordability Gap Widens in Connecticut

Credit Operation Fuel

The number of households unable to afford heating bills in the state will rise again this winter. That’s the message from Operation Fuel, the non-profit that aims to help low-income families with utility bills. 

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Higher Education
9:14 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Community College Programs Can Lead To Big Payoffs — In The Right Fields

Dental students use practice dummies Aug. 27 in a newly renovated section of Grand Rapids Community College in Grand Rapids, Mich. Health care is one field for which a recent study found that a community college degree produced a strong financial return.
Zach Gibson MLive.com/Landov

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 8:54 pm

When it comes to higher education, we've all heard the talking points: More people than ever are pursuing four-year degrees — despite skyrocketing tuition costs — because they don't have many other choices if they want to be competitive in the workforce.

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Connecticut Business Briefs
10:53 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Gas in Connecticut Hits Four-Year Low

Credit Mike Mozart / Creative Commons

It's official: a gallon of gas now costs less than $3.00 in Connecticut. According to AAA's statewide survey, it's the first time in over four years that the average price has dipped below that mark. 

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Power Crunch
1:14 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

Buyer Beware as Electric Rates Soar

Connecticut's Consumer Counsel, Elin Swanson Katz.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

Consumers who are scrambling to lower their electric rates in the new year are being urged to exercise caution. Looming rate increases from Connecticut Light and Power and United Illuminating have many considering signing up for an alternative supplier for the first time. 

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Where We Live
9:00 am
Tue December 2, 2014

What's Driving the Electric Rate Hike in Connecticut?; Herbalife's So-Called "Pyramid Scheme"

EyeLights/iStock Thinkstock

State regulators, in a draft ruling, have reduced the permanent rate increase proposed by Connecticut Light and Power, slashing the number from $221 million to about $130 million. It’s big news in the ongoing controversy over the energy company’s plan to increase electric rates.

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Utilities
3:19 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Connecticut Regulators Propose Slashing CL&P Rate Increase

Credit Невідомий / Creative Commons

Connecticut regulators say that a power utility's request to raise consumer costs by more than $230 million should be cut nearly in half. 

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Holiday Shopping
9:56 am
Sun November 30, 2014

Black Friday Sales Down At Stores, Surge Online

Shoppers Manuel Orellano, middle, with his daughter Marcela, left, and her son Manuel, 6, shop for children's clothing at JCPenney at Glendale Galleria shopping mall in Glendale, Calif, on Friday.
Damian Dovarganes AP

Originally published on Sun November 30, 2014 2:33 pm

Black Friday shopping at brick-and-mortar stores in the United States was down about 7 percent from a year ago, according to ShopperTrak, but more purchases on Thanksgiving Day nearly made up the difference. Meanwhile, online retailers recorded double-digit year-on-year increases in sales.

ShopperTrak says Friday store sales hit $9.1 billion, but that shoppers spent $3.2 billion on Thanksgiving — a 24 percent increase for sales on that day from over last year. Overall, it represented a 0.5 percent drop from last year.

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Energy
8:06 am
Tue November 18, 2014

Connecticut OKs Higher Electric Generating Rates

Credit Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary / Thinkstock

Connecticut regulators have approved higher rates to generate electricity for residential and business customers of two utilities. 

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Food Waste
3:47 am
Mon November 17, 2014

To End Food Waste, Change Needs To Begin At Home

Sherri Erkel and her daughter, Asa, cook dinner in their kitchen in Iowa City, Iowa. The Erkel family is part of an EPA study measuring the amount of food wasted in U.S. homes.
Pat Aylward NET News

Originally published on Mon November 17, 2014 3:24 pm

It's a hot summer day outside Lincoln, Neb., and Jack Chappelle is knee-deep in trash. He's wading in to rotting vegetables, half-eaten burgers and tater tots. Lots of tater tots.

"You can get a lot of tater tots out of schools," Chappelle says. "It doesn't matter if it's elementary, middle school or high school. Tater tots. Bar none."

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Automobiles
4:29 pm
Sat November 15, 2014

For Best-Selling Truck, Ford Bets Big On Aluminum

A 2015 F-150 rolls off the assembly line at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich. The aluminum-sided F-150 could set a new industry standard — or cost the company its pickup truck crown.
Paul Sancya AP

Originally published on Sat November 15, 2014 5:30 pm

The first 2015 Ford F-150 rolled off the assembly line this week, and it is no normal truck. The new F-150 pickup is the first with an aluminum body, making it hundreds of pounds lighter than its predecessors.

Ford isn't taking this gamble on just any truck — the F-150 is the company's most important vehicle. Morgan Stanley estimates the F-Series truck line and SUV derivatives represent 90 percent of Ford's global profits.

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Health Insurance
6:49 am
Sat November 15, 2014

They Paid How Much? How Negotiated Deals Hide Health Care's Cost

Sal Morales found an Obamacare health plan this year that costs him $145 per month — versus the $560 he'd been paying.
Courtesy of The Miami Herald

Originally published on Mon November 17, 2014 1:43 pm

As Americans begin shopping again for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act on Saturday, they'll be wrestling with premiums, deductibles, out-of-pocket costs and other vague and confusing insurance-speak.

Believe it or not, that's the easy part compared with figuring out what health care actually costs.

Sal Morales of Miami bought insurance in March during the ACA's first enrollment period on the HealthCare.gov website.

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Power Marketplace
9:08 am
Tue November 11, 2014

Big Electric Rate Hikes on the Way for Winter in Connecticut

Your meter may not be spinning any faster, but you'll pay more.
Sarah Simpson Creative Commons

Both of Connecticut’s electric utility companies want to raise rates sharply in January. 

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Where We Live
9:00 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Connecticut's Plan for Energy Efficiency; Roundtable Looks at CL&P Rates

Kevin Dooley Creative Commons

According to a new scorecard from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Connecticut has dropped to sixth place in the national ranking of state energy efficiency. 

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Energy
3:28 am
Wed November 5, 2014

New England Electricity Prices Spike As Gas Pipelines Lag

One proposed solution for New England's energy price spike problem: Importing more liquefied natural gas and feeding it into the pipeline network on the other side of the region's bottleneck.
Sam Evans-Brown New Hampshire Public Radio

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 11:58 am

When Don Sage of Concord, N.H., learned his electric bill could rise by as much as $40 a month he got flustered. He and his wife make do on a bit less than $30,000 a year in Social Security payments, and they pay close attention to their electric bills.

"When the invoice comes in the mail to get paid, I have a target amount that we can fluctuate up or down, based on our fixed budget," Sage says. "They don't need my permission to hike up their rates, but the fact is we're the ones that are paying these increases."

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Business
3:45 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

Frontier Offers Refunds to Customers Affected by Outage

Credit Thinkstock

Frontier Communications said it will offer refunds to customers who have been affected by outages in service. The Stamford-based company just switched over all of AT&T'’s landline, Internet and streaming video customers.

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