12/27/13 3:24pm
12/27/2013 3:24 PM
Peconic Bay in Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The entrance to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

The Peconic Bay Medical Center’s director of general robotic surgery will make an appearance on a television program this evening to discuss the future of robots and technology in health care.


COURTESY PHOTO | Dr. Agostino Cervone.

Dr. Agostino Cervone will be interviewed on Fox Business News’ “Money with Melissa Francis” Friday between 5 and 6 p.m.

Dr. Cervone was featured in a Riverhead News-Review article last month about a new robotic surgical system that allows visiting surgeons to observe operations for training.

“Our robotic surgery program and highly skilled and dedicated team is committed to continually improving the health and well-being of the communities we serve through the pursuit of excellence in healthcare and state-of-the-art technology,” hospital president and CEO Andrew Mitchell said.

11/21/13 3:00pm
11/21/2013 3:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Michael Hubbard (left) hangs out with classmates in the Riverhead High School Interact Club Wednesday afternoon.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Michael Hubbard (left) hangs out with classmates in the Riverhead High School Interact Club Wednesday afternoon.

For the first time in two years, Michael Hubbard will be spending Thanksgiving at home, surrounded by family and a feast.

The Riverhead teen is still recovering from a gel candle explosion in May 2011 that severely burned him and lead to cardiac arrest and brain damage. Michael had been in rehab at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Westchester County since the accident.

But since returning to Peconic Bay Medical Center Health’s Skilled Nursing Facility this spring, Michael has been steadily improving, his mother, Nancy Reyer, said. He’s gone through a growth spurt and has gained weight thanks to a new diet.

Being back home — surrounded by medical and emotional support — has given him a noticeable boost, she said.

“He looks better,” Ms. Reyer said. “He has that little look to his face … He seems to be doing really well.”

Michael — who turned 17 in August — will leave the nursing facility next week to spend Thanksgiving with family, after a worker at PBMC offered to help, Ms. Reyer said.

“Coming to Peconic Bay Medical is nothing but a godsend,” she said.

Michael was also visited Wednesday afternoon by members of the Riverhead High School Interact Club, who decorated the common room at the Skilled Nursing Facility.

“You can’t teach compassion. You kind of have to show it,” said Allison Pressler, a parent of an Interact Club member and friend of Ms. Reyer who chaperoned the trip. “I was really proud.”

The students put up turkey decorations and spent time with Michael, who smiled and laughed, Ms. Reyer said. The Interact Club — which is affiliated with the Riverhead Rotary — also made Michael an honorary member.

The club plans to come back every month to redecorate the room and spend time with their classmate, who will graduate this spring from Riverhead High School with an honorary diploma.

Ms. Reyer said returning home has been a “reality check” as the family grapples with Michael’s ongoing medical care. But efforts like the Interact Club’s, fundraising efforts to build a full-time home at Brendan House on Sound Avenue – where he is expected to live – and the level of care he gets from nurses at the center eases her mind.

“[It's] the greatest comfort knowing that everyone here loves him,” she said.


11/12/13 7:00am
11/12/2013 7:00 AM
Patients relying on Medicare to cover the costs of hospital care should ask additional questions next time they find themselves having to visit an area hospital — even if everything looks like it’s business as usual during a hospital stay.

As a notice from Eastern Long Island Hospital explained, patients could find themselves staying on an inpatient floor, sharing a room with an inpatient, and even receiving the same care as an inpatient – but still be considered an outpatient by Medicare. This can make them responsible for unexpected expenses.

A Medicare enrolled patient who has been admitted to a hospital is considered an inpatient, and would be covered under Medicare Part A, explained Maureen Ruga, director of quality management at Peconic Bay Medical Center. But a hospital patient can also be placed on “observation status,” making that person an outpatient  – in which case they would be covered under Medicare Part B, she said.

Part B holds beneficiaries responsible for deductibles for some testing and medication, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Effective Oct. 1, new Medicare & Medicaid Services rules make time the determining factor of whether a Medicare patient should be officially admitted to the hospital or not. Under those rules, if a physician expects a patient will require hospitalization for at least two overnight days, or two “midnights,” they should meet qualifications for admittance to the hospital.

If not, the patient will be placed on observation status.

“Patients should always ask if they are being admitted into the hospital as an inpatient. That is number one,” Ms. Ruga said. “If they are being treated on observation status, they should check with their physician each day to see if their status has changed.”

On Oct. 22., Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new law requiring state hospitals to provide Medicare beneficiaries with both oral and written notice within 24 hours if they are placed under observation during their hospital stay. Under the state law, the hospital must also explain how the status will affect the patient’s health insurance coverage – and give them the right to appeal the observation status.

The Medicare & Medicaid Services rules have been criticized by health care advocacy groups, including the StateWide Senior Action Council, because, Ms. Ruga said, Medicare “isn’t using diagnosis or care as the criteria for coverage, they are using a time frame.”

She said the quality of care patients receive should not be affected by Medicare billing.

Understanding one’s status during a hospital stay becomes especially important for patients who might need subsequent care at a skilled nursing facility, said Eric Hausman, Medicare consultant for the state Department for the Aging. According to the new rules, Medicare patients must spend at least three consecutive days as a hospital inpatient in order to qualify for Part A coverage for subsequent care at a skilled nursing facility.

Got a health question or column idea? Email Carrie Miller at cmiller@timesreview.com. Follow her on twitter @carriemiller01.

10/25/13 7:00am
10/25/2013 7:00 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | ‘Cover yourself and protect your business,’ advised Alysia Doerbecker, senior district manager for ADP payroll services, at last Wednesday’s conference on health care and small businesses in Wading River.

As employers, employees and the unemployed across America continue to wrap their heads around new federal health insurance mandates – known to many simply as Obamacare — owners of local businesses, both large and small, were asking plenty of questions last week at a symposium designed to clue them in to the new rules and regulations and how it could affect their business models moving forward.

Experts at the event, “Taming Healthcare 2014,” gave a dose of advice to the business community Oct. 16 at the Inn & Spa at East Wind, offering tips for navigating the newly reformed health care system — which they described as a “moving target.”

Starting in 2015, businesses employing 50 or more full-time equivalent workers will be required to offer those employees affordable health insurance coverage or face penalty fees.

Andrew Mitchell, CEO of PBMC Health, delivered the keynote speech at the event – presented by the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency and Peconic Bay Medical Center. He said employers are required to offer an insurance plan that covers at least 60 percent of medical expenses, which is the same percentage covered by the lowest plan on the public health insurance marketplace. At the same time, the plan’s monthly premium must be no more than 9.5 percent of the employee’s household income – otherwise it is considered “unaffordable,” according to the reform law.

This means what is affordable to one employee may not be to another, which in turn means added paperwork and oversight for employers to ensure they are in compliance, said Alysia Doerbecker, senior district manager for ADP payroll services.

“There is a laundry list of information that you need to be prepared for,” Ms. Doerbecker said.

As a result, she said, a proficient human resources system to keep tabs on all the information could be vital.

Should a company slip up, it may be subject to penalties or open itself to a lawsuit, said John Hudson, president of True Benefit, LLC, an employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm.

After 90 days, new employees become eligible to join the company’s health care plan, should they offer one, Mr. Hudson said. “You better track [those] employee[s] accurately. If they should have been offered coverage, it’s going to come back to you as an employer from a lawsuit perspective.”

To enforce the new regulations, Michael Vigliotta, an attorney at The Law Offices of Thomas M. Volz, said the Internal Revenue Service is hiring more than 6,500 new employees to ensure businesses are in compliance.

Susan Flatley, manager of North Fork Radiology, which has 60 full-time employees, said she was expecting added oversight, “but not to the extent of what I heard here today.”

And for those considering not offering affordable care, “the penalties are larger than I had anticipated,” she said. The penalty is generally equal to $2,000 for each full-time employee, excluding the first 30 employees. Should an employee enroll in the marketplace and qualify for a government subsidy, additional fees could be incurred.

Bruce Talmage, owner of Talmage Agway in Riverhead, has about 17 full-time employees, which puts him in the small business category.

“It sounds like I am not required to provide a health plan, but I currently do, and I am trying to understand the rules,” Mr. Talmage said. He said many of his questions have to do with his ever-changing work force because the store gets busier during the spring and summer landscaping seasons.

Talmage wears an interesting couple of hats, as he’s also involved with the nonprofit Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which has about 17 full-time employees. While the nonprofit has not offered health coverage in the past, he said they are looking into getting it.

As a small business, he is not required to offer health insurance, but there are tax incentives for small businesses that do so, according to the Small Business Assistance Program, a state-run nonprofit supporting affordable health insurance.

“If I do continue to offer one, does it have to be to every single employee? Is there a limit on the number of hours they work?” Mr. Talmage asked.

According to the law, as long as his work force does not exceed 50 full-time workers for more than 120 calendar days, he will still be considered a small business.

Raising even more questions for Talmage, the insurance plan he currently offers his employees will no longer be offered come Jan. 1, so it’s as if he is starting at square one, he said.

There are also unanswered questions on the health care provider side.

An estimated 57 million uninsured people stand to gain access to affordable health care, however there are already shortages of primary care physicians to provide it, said Dr. George Ruggierio, chief of family medicine and director of medical education at PBMC.

“Primary care physicians are already under strain. Who’s going to see these people?” Dr. Ruggierio said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the physician supply will increase by only 7 percent in the next 10 years, far less than the more than 36 percent increase in the patient population, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“There are concerns across the board – the insurance industry, hospitals and doctors trying to deliver care,” Dr. Ruggierio said.

Unfortunately, not all of the questions are answered yet, said Randy Blum, a representative from United Healthcare – an insurance provider offering coverage on New York’s insurance exchange. “At this point nobody knows what’s going to happen.”

While much remains uncertain for health care providers, small business owners seeking the right plan and employees themselves, Lauren McKissick, owner of Prominent Swimming Pools Inc. of Calverton – which has just a handful of employees – said that either way, she believes offering health benefits is important to keeping loyal employees.

“You don’t want to lose good people over insurance issues,” she said. “But is it going to be more affordable to workers if we break off and no longer offer it?”


10/24/13 4:26pm
10/24/2013 4:26 PM
Peconic Bay in Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The entrance to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

Peconic Bay Medical Center has been recognized nationally for its partnership with physicians, allowing each to deliver high quality care at low costs to patients, according to a global health care consulting firm.

The Advisory Board Company, the health care firm, awarded PBMC the Southwind Transformation Award in Cost Effective Community Care.

As costs of providing care continue to rise, the margins hospitals work within have begun to tighten, according to The Advisory Board Company. Partnerships with physicians allow hospitals to coordinate care, lowering costs, the firm said.

“PBMC developed a plan to ensure the hospital’s financial sustainability, mobilizing a system-wide effort analyzing all departments and divisions to identify improvement opportunities,” a press release from the firm reads. “The initiative included optimizing care coordination, leadership structure, emergency services, ancillary services, supply chain, perioperative services, and the physician enterprise.”

The changes help reduced operating costs by improving the flow of patients and reducing readmission rates, and improving the financial stability of the hospital’s physician employment program, according to the release.

“[The organization’s] work to deepen their collaborative partnerships with physicians makes [it a] national leader in executing key initiatives for value-based care strategy,” said John Deane, chief executive officer of the firm’s consulting division.

To learn more about the hospital’s initiate, visit the firms website.


09/29/13 9:58am
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The Massoud family at the 30th anniversary celebration of Paumanok Vineyards Saturday night.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The Massoud family at the 30th anniversary celebration of Paumanok Vineyards Saturday night.

Paumanok Vineyards celebrated its 30th anniversary Saturday night with a gala party to thank local chefs for their years of support. The Massoud family, owners of the Aquebogue vineyard, will donate all proceeds from the event to Peconic Bay Medical Center.


Several hundred guests gathered under a festive white tent at the edge of the vineyard and were treated to tastings from some of Long Island’s most celebrated chefs, including many from the North Fork.


Master of Ceremonies Doug Geed, anchorman for News 12 and host of The East End, spoke of his affection for the North Fork and for the Massoud family, whom he has known for over 25 years.

Peconic Bay Medical Center president and CEO Andrew Mitchell gave a short and sometimes funny history of the Massoud family’s journey and of winemaking on Long Island.

Suffolk County legislator Al Krupski presented the Massouds with a proclamation and brought the entire family up to the stage to receive it.