CHEERS to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey for shining a light on some questionable sales tactics among retail energy suppliers.
When the state deregulated the electricity market in the late 1990s, it was with the promise that increased, open competition would lead to lower prices for consumers.
Not only has that not happened, it has opened the door for what Healey’s office suggests are predatory practices by many companies that victimize those who can least afford it.
Many companies use high-pressure, door-to-door sales tactics that offer steep savings but actually have the opposite effect, Healey said.
A report commissioned by the attorney general’s office found that between July 2015 and June 2018, low-income customers who switched to competitive electric suppliers paid about $57 million more than they would have paid if they had kept their old service. In Salem, the estimated 17% of residents who have switched to the competitive energy market are losing an estimated $47,529 combined, or paying about $15 more a month. In Gloucester residents have lost $46,286 collectively.
Now, Healey wants the state Department of Public Utilities to investigate the impact of the retail energy market on low-income consumers. It’s an idea that deserves support.
Maybe we’re spoiled around these parts, but we feel compelled to offer a JEERS to an ignominious end to the New England Patriots’ season.
The Pats, in the unfamiliar position of playing on the NFL’s wild card weekend, were broomed from the playoff hunt Saturday by the 9-7 Tennessee Titans, no one’s idea of a pigskin powerhouse. It was a joyless end to what ultimately was a joyless year.
New England started the season 8-0, leading legions of fans to ponder the idea of an untrammeled run to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, site of Super Bowl LIV. Many of those same fans trudged out of Gillette Stadium Saturday night, the last vision in their heads the sight of the once-infallible Tom Brady throwing an interception that led to a game-sealing touchdown for the Titans. The final score was 20-13, but it didn’t feel that close, since the Patriots offense was moving with the speed and urgency of an MBTA train after a snowstorm.
It is a little unfair to rest New England’s playoff hopes entirely on the shoulders of Brady, who has given the region’s fans two decades of sustained excellence, including a record-tying six Super Bowl victories. There was no Gronk to ride to the rescue this year, no Danny Amendola or even Josh Gordon to take some of the pressure off the stalwart wide receiver Julian Edelman.
Now, New England’s fandom is facing an unsettled offseason. How will Bill Belichick reshape his aging roster? Will the Patriots be punished, yet again, for taping another team’s activities? What will be the outcome of billionaire owner Robert Kraft’s massage parlor sex case? Will Brady, 42 years old and a looming free agent, retire or, worse yet, sign with another team?
Fortunately, we remain spoiled in these parts. Halfway through their respective seasons, the Bruins and the Celtics remain among their leagues’ best. And Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 11 — a mere 36 days away. That gives us reason for hope. Unless, of course, Mookie Betts has been traded by then. Which would be the topic of another JEER.
Proper nutrition is an integral part of health care, so we offer a robust CHEERS to The Open Door for a project aimed at ensuring the region’s older population has ready access to fresh, healthy food.
The Open Door, which last year served 1.65 million meals to 8,000 people from Cape Ann and Ipswich, this month unveils a medically tailored grocery program, or MTG. The pilot program, aimed at those over the age of 55, treats access to food “as a medical intervention rather than an emergency intervention,” said Julie LaFontaine, Open Door’s executive director.
The focus on older residents is especially wise, given our aging population. It is estimated seniors will be the largest demographic in the region by 2035, and many of those health challenges those residents will face can be addressed, or at least alleviated, with a good diet.
Of course, Open Door and other pantries already offer a wide variety of fresh food. The new program, however, pairs clients with a registered dietitian for weekly meetings. Folks are then sent home with a collection of foods “that are specific to your conditions,” LaFontaine told reporter Taylor Ann Bradford.
The approach shows promise. A 2019 study of more than 1,000 Massachusetts residents using an MTG found that the number of inpatient hospital were cut by half. There was an overall 16 percent reduction in health care costs.