Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "variation" ...

  • Surgeon Scorecard

    ProPublica analyzed Medicare claims data, and published, for the first time, the risk-adjusted complication rates for almost 17,000 surgeons who perform certain elective operations. These operations are: hip and knee replacements, spinal fusions, gallbladder removals, and prostate removals or prostate resections. Until now, there was no national public database that named surgeons who had the lowest and highest complication rates. ProPublica found that patients are at risk of medical mishaps even when undergoing these relatively low-risk procedures. We identified more than 65,000 cases where patients were harmed or died. Surgeon Scorecard allows patients to make better-informed decisions about where to go for care. It also provides surgeons and hospitals with a benchmark for how their performance compares to their peers nationally -- which is important because the medical industry does so little now to track complications. One of our most important findings was about the distribution of these mistakes. Many surgeons had complication rates 2 or 3 times the national average. But these surgeons weren’t exclusively operating at sub-par hospitals. Instead they could be found at prestigious institutions, sometimes in positions of leadership. Even more striking was the variation between high and low complication rate surgeons performing the same procedure at the same hospital.
  • Costly Generics

    Generic drugs now make up around 80 percent of prescriptions filled, and many assume generics are always cheap. But a PBS NewsHour Weekend investigation found that’s not always the case. Retail prices for generic drugs can vary wildly from pharmacy to pharmacy – a fact few consumers know anything about. The story was very personal for PBS NewsHour Weekend correspondent Megan Thompson, whose mother Carol discovered that the cost of a month’s supply of her generic breast cancer drug Letrozole ranged from around $10 to more than $400 at pharmacies around the Twin Cities. Thompson also spoke to Lisa Gill at Consumer Reports who led a national survey of retail prices for five new generics. Gill said their results were unprecedented - the biggest price variations they’d ever seen in a drug pricing study. The consequences of these huge price variations can be dire. The uninsured, or people with inadequate drug coverage or high deductibles, could overpay by hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Or, they could end up going without medications they need. Thompson interviewed Lisa Duncan of Brooklyn Park, MN, who is bipolar and has a history of suicide attempts. After she became uninsured, she couldn’t afford a big-name chain’s price of more than $100 for one of her prescriptions, so she left the store empty-handed. Duncan says she found the same drug at CostCo for a tenth of the price and was able take the drug again as needed. As the nation grapples with skyrocketing health care costs, “Costly Generics” is an important consumer story that shines a light on the murky prescription drug marketplace, where it’s hard to know how much drugs are supposed to cost, and is very difficult to find or compare prices. And vulnerable populations who need medications the most – the elderly, or chronically ill -- may also be the least likely to have to have the resources to navigate this opaque marketplace. One viewer wrote that after watching the story, she called around and found her prescription for $28 at a local drug store, compared to $72 at CVS.
  • The Austerity Audit

    In 2013, the United Kingdom began its most radical welfare reform in a generation – a government program to severely reduce spending on working-age benefit payments. The Financial Times saw an opportunity to illustrate a human and economic drama and through data analysis, it revealed an estimated loss of £19bn a year in annual welfare payments that could disrupt families, communities and businesses across the UK. The FT Austerity Audit was the first media investigation to explore and evaluate the economic and business consequences of the historic welfare reforms. Guided by exclusive data research that revealed a wide variation in the impact of the cuts, FT reporters fanned out across Britain to produce a startling analysis that generated heated debate: some northern towns and cities would be hit five-times as hard as suburban southern counties. The FT published an ambitious, two-day series that generated buzz across social media and much debate in the UK political sphere. Its story-telling was innovative and expansive – with interactive graphics, video, photography and text combined in a custom-designed website. The interactive map was rich in detail and both easy and exciting to use.
  • Welcome Back Warrior

    The tragic suicide of mentally ill Marine Corps veteran Brian Callan was the catalyst for an analysis of how the Department of Veterans Affairs fails to assist soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and a variation called peacekeeper's traumatic stress disorder. The VA has cut special services for those with PTSD, like Callan who served in Lebanon, Desert Storm and Somalia, nearly to extinction,
  • Judges vary sharply on disability approval; Access to Social Security files granted only after legal battle

    Two stories that take a look at the rates at which individual Social Security administrative law judges grant disability benefits to claimants. It showed huge variation from one judge to another in the Houston area--a hotspot for controversy over how, and how often, benefits are granted.
  • Fit to be tied

    Governing reports on the failures of deadlocked legislatures throughout the country. The story points to the example of Washington State House of Representatives, where "a 49-49 tie between Republicans and Democrats ... has bogged down legislation and set nerves on edge almost continuously in Olympia for the last three years." The article looks at ties four other legislative bodies: the Maine, South Carolina, Arizona and Missouri Senates. The report reveals a variation of power-sharing agreements that legislators come up with in order to solve the deadlocks created by voters.
  • "Your genetic destiny for sale"

    Several ventures have been launched over recent years to "sift through the DNA of specific populations, in hope of identifying the underlying genetic causes of those diseases most likely to kill us. The researchers, pharmaceutical companies executives and venture capitalists involved are all betting that recent advances in biotech and computing have made it possible to take a few hundred or thousand victims of a disease, analyze their DNA, compare it to the DNA of healthy individuals, and identify the salient differences -- those genetic variations that result in illness on the one hand and health on the other...If these efforts succeed, they could revolutionize the nature of drug discovery and medical treatment." However, this type of research, called population genomics, brings up a host of ethical issues. For instance, some past studies use a standard of "presumed consent" for subject's participation in the study, as opposed to the "informed consent" required for most research.
  • Auto Inspections Erratic

    The Post-Dispatch reports that "Stations range from the hard-to-please to happy-to-ablige...In a computer analysis of almost 1 million records from the St. Louis area, the Post-Dispatch found that drivers can't rely on getting a standard inspection. We found huge variations in how often stations pass or fail cars - even when you take into account the age and make of cars..."
  • (Untitled)

    Governing discusses the costs and variations of recycling programs across the nation, including how much programs cost in comparison to landfill dumping, how different types of programs have cost advantages and disadvantages and how many municipalities have been forced to scale programs back in response to budget pressures.
  • Governors' extradition decisions vary radically

    Wall Street Journal shows governors' extradition decisions vary radically; there is indication that politics enters into some decisions.