Debbie Hootam, Investors Branch Manager
by Benjamin Fang
Jul 27, 2016 | 42 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Investors Bank recently opened up its newest branch in Greenpoint, marking the 15th location they have in Brooklyn. Leading the branch is Debbie Hootam, who was born in Guyana and raised in East Flatbush. “This is a great time to come into the community and see how well it’s developed and grown,” she said. “Growing up in Brooklyn, when you hear Greenpoint, you’re thinking industrial, you’re not thinking residential. To see the diverse community that it is now, I’m amazed and so energized and passionate.” Hootam comes into the position with 19 years of banking experience, including a stint at TD Bank. Although she can call herself a Brooklynite, she’s spent most of her professional career in Manhattan. “In Manhattan, it’s more business-oriented. Being in Brooklyn, it’s more residential, so you’re dealing with smaller businesses,” Hootam said. “For me, to see them grow is going to be key. “It’s not just a transaction,” she added. “It’s getting to know your customers and getting to educate them on different products and services we offer that they can benefit from to save money and make money.” With the new branch, Hootam really wants to make Investors a community-focused bank. The strategy is to be involved in local community events and reach out to community partners. “So following up and making people feel important is what’s needed here, not just walking into a bank like a Chase or a TD, where you’re just a number,” Hootam said. “Here, it’s not a number. It’s about knowing your customer and understanding what their needs are, not just product pushing. “The culture I’m establishing today is one that anyone can walk into the branch and be called by their name,” she added. “Everyone knows who they are, that’s the culture I want to build.”
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Public safety moved too slow
Jul 27, 2016 | 75 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The number one job of any level of government should be to protect its people. For nearly three years, the state and federal government forgot that simple principle in Forest Park. In 2013, a man reportedly used a stun gun to rape two women in Forest Park and elected officials reacted quickly, allocating $250,000 for new security cameras. In the middle of 2016, those cameras are finally being installed, after countless other crimes including a murder, were committed in the park. There's understandably a lot of trepidation around security cameras and the invasion of privacy that they cause. It makes some feel like they're living in a police state under the watchful eye of government. But in a public park on city-owned land, there's little ground for a private citizen to argue. Cameras in this case can act as a deterrent and help better identify suspects who attempt to commit crimes of any nature. They will help battle minor things like graffiti and take on more serious felony crimes like murder or sexual assault. And why were the cameras held in limbo? Red tape in the form of an arduous process that involved the NYPD submitting a form to two different state agencies. It was a process that could have allowed a countless number of crimes to occur, all because government moves at a glacial pace. A lot of regulations and processes are important, but nearly three years is simply absurd. The state government needs to adopt a more streamlined process for public safety issues. This isn't a request to put up a new gazebo or to re-shape the landscape of the park, but to simply add a few safety measures to a 538-acre park. This should have taken weeks not years, but at least the cameras will finally be in place.
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Medicare Cuts Are the Wrong Prescription
by Brian Nyquist
Jul 27, 2016 | 84 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
More than 1.5 million Americans are living with Rheumatoid Arthritis. A diagnosis is life altering, as RA causes chronic swelling and pain and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and depression. After learning they have the disease, many patients head to their local Infusion Center for treatment, as many of the best medicines for RA are delivered via IV. But if Medicare officials in Washington proceed with a new plan to cut Medicare funding, many of these centers will close or be forced to turn away patients who need these advanced treatments. This proposal, which impacts Medicare Part B, will deny patients convenient access to the medicines they depend on. It must be shelved. Most patients with RA, cancer, osteoporosis, and other serious conditions rely on medicines that are delivered intravenously, under the supervision of a doctor. Today, clinics and Infusion Centers buy these medicines directly, and then Part B reimburses them the drug's average sales price plus another 4.3 percent, which accounts for administrative costs, storage, overhead, and more. Medicare officials plan to slash the reimbursement rate to the average sales price plus 0.9 percent and an additional flat fee of $16.80 per dose. That would drastically lower the reimbursement rate for advanced drugs while raising it for dated, less-expensive medicines. For some patients, the change won't matter - as the drugs they need have been on the market for decades. But for many patients, especially those with chronic, auto-immune diseases like RA, the best drugs are the newest, most-advanced medicines without cheaper alternatives. Physicians will struggle to offer such drugs under Medicare's proposal, so many will refer their patients to hospitals that can afford to carry the drugs. Heading to a large hospital generally means longer travel and wait times. And because treatment costs are higher at hospitals, taxpayers will suffer, too. By being sent to big hospitals for treatment, patients with these diseases also will lose the personalized care of their clinic doctors. As Rose Gerber, the director of patient advocacy and education at the Community Oncology Alliance put it, "[Medicare] is wedging itself between the patient and his or her physician." Some centers will even be forced to close. Clinics and Infusion Centers barely break even under the current formula. Repeated Medicare cuts have reduced reimbursements for infusion of a "high-level" medication by 24 percent from 2006 to 2014. As a result, the average center earns a margin of just 1 or 2 percent treating Medicare patients. With so many centers treading water, this new round of reimbursement cuts would drown clinics and centers in red ink. In 2013, when officials last cut the reimbursements rate, dozens of cancer clinics closed and acquisitions by hospitals increased 20 percent. Right now, when patients receive a diagnosis of RA, cancer, or another serious disease, many find comfort in the knowledge that they'll have access to miracle drugs that previous generations could only dream of, and that their doctor will be by their side throughout the treatments. But if Medicare officials move forward with their plan, that could end. The changes will dash hundreds of thousands of sick Americans' hopes for a brighter future, and all for an effort to shave costs. Brian Nyquist is executive director of the National Infusion Center Association.
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