Monday, March 26, 2012

Attention New York State Empire Plan Members

I was recently a guest speaker at the Pleasant Plains, Prince's Bay, Richmond Valley Civic Association here on Staten Island. By the way, it's an admirable organization and, I'm not just saying that because I've been its vice president for quite a number of years. We do wonderful things for our community and, therefore, I was more than happy to volunteer to address the membership on the topic of Speech-Language Pathology.

After a concise but thorough presentation of the clinical aspects of my field of practice, the inevitable topics of cost for service and insurance coverage were explored. Having been in practice for thirty eight years, I was able to lend historical perspective on these two very practical areas of concern. After speaking in generalities about the insurance industry's current response to claims for speech therapy, I became more specific about a few policies that insure many residents of our little island.

This led to a much more detailed description of the Speech Pathology provision of the New York State Empire Plan which insures New York State employees who work for our state in any capacity. Here on Staten Island, there are numerous NY State facilities which employ our local citizenry, as well as numerous Staten Islanders who commute to NY State facilities in other parts of our metropolitan area. I'll enumerate some of them at the conclusion of this blog.

In my presentation, I emphasized that it has been my experience that no other insurance plan in our area nor throughout the United States contains a better Speech Pathology provision than the New York State Empire Plan (which is administered by United HealthCare). There are plans that cover most, if not all, of the services rendered by Speech Pathologists. There are also plans that have reimbursement rates that cover the full cost of such services. Additionally, there are plans that cover those services for as long as they are required for successful remediation of the communication disorder being treated.

Now, imagine an insurance plan that does all three of these wonderful things for its members. You've now imagined the New York State Empire Plan; a policy with deductibles and out-of-pocket-maximums so low that they are dwarfed by the usual magnanimous amounts contained in other policies today. My experience with the NYS Empire Plan is extensive; I have been associated with them since the early 1980's when they came into existence, and I have treated their members for the nearly thirty years since. I have come to learn that, most often, those covered by this plan can receive Speech Pathology services at no cost to them. There is, of course, an investment of time.

So, an investment of time, not money, was my theme when I delineated the Speech Pathology provisions of the NYS Empire Plan. That, again inevitably, brought me to the next logical topic in the form of a question: "Where are these Empire Plan members?" With tens of thousands of Staten Islanders insured by this one plan in particular, whose family members are equally insured, why are so many of them not taking advantage of this generous coverage if the need exists within their family? At a minimum rate of one in ten people having a communication disorder, the number of Staten Islanders with such disorders who are covered by this plan could be quite large.

Like so many of us, I have been following the current budget and pension adjustments our governor would like to dole out to New York State Civil Servants. If he has his way, state workers will be negatively effected economically. I often wonder if our governor might ever turn his attention to the health insurance his employees receive with cutting and saving in mind. I mentioned earlier that I can lend historical perspective to the topic of speech services and insurance plans based on a lifetime in my chosen profession. Therefore, I can assure you that, when insurance companies engage in cost containment, they don't cut services that save lives, they first cut services that improve the quality of life. And, as my website so eloquently points out, that is what Speech Pathologists are all about; we improve quality of life.

So the next question at my Civic presentation became: " Why not take advantage of a policy provision while it still exists?" And further: "Why not start now in an effort to prevent the usual, negative emotional, social, academic and vocational ramifications that typically accompany unresolved speech and language disorders?"

Perhaps you're a court reporter or a court officer for a NY State Court. Maybe you work at South Beach Psychiatric Center, or one of the many other State Health facilities on or off the island. Perhaps your employer is the Transit Authority or the Long Island Rail Road. You may work at a State political office or the Department of Motor Vehicles. Whatever it is that makes you a State Civil Servant, if you are covered by the New York State Empire Plan and have a need for speech pathology services, I will be happy to discuss all matters clinical and financial with you. Learn what an investment of time can do for you or your family member. I can be reached at 718 948 7381.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Staten Island Advance

Hometown remedy inspires random act of kindness.
Prince's Bay speech therapist offers overseas evaluation for former Islander living in Italy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A Prince's Bay speech therapist, Felix M. DiPalma, extended his practice all the way to Italy by providing free advice via e-mail for Giacomo Castelmare, 2. Giacomo's mother, Danielle DeVito, grew up in Midland Beach and now lives in Lucca in the Tuscany region of Italy.

Ms. DeVito became concerned that her son was slow to speak and brought up the issue with her son's Italian pediatrician at his age-2 health check in August 2009. The doctor explained that in Italy early intervention wasn't available and Giacomo would have to wait at least another year, until he entered preschool, before he could be evaluated.

Knowing that she would be returning to Staten Island for the 2009 Christmas holidays, Ms. DeVito used the Internet to research speech therapists in our borough. "As soon as I came across Mr. Felix DiPalma's Web site and blog, I knew I may have found my answer," she wrote in an e-mail to the Advance.

She e-mailed a request to schedule an appointment in December and also expressed her concerns about Giacomo's speech, even including links to home videos. "I heard back from Mr. DiPalma himself almost immediately and I knew I had made a wise decision to contact him," Ms. DeVito wrote.

"Not only had he read over my entire e-mail and watched all my videos, and not only was he willing to meet with us face to face in December, but he made a point of fixing us a phone consultation right away so that I wouldn't worry myself to death in the following months waiting for my appointment in December."

DiPalma spoke to her by phone for about two hours and offered to e-mail her weekly tasks to work on with Giacomo. She would give him weekly updates via e-mail. The weekly e-mailing between mother and speech therapist when on through December. DiPalma insisted
that Giacomo's appointment would be free of charge but that she could donate money to a charity for unwed mothers.

"Giacomo and I arrived to the appointment with a bottle of olive oil made from the olive trees on our land in Italy and a homemade cheesecake from my sister who is a pastry chef," she wrote. "It was the very least I could do."

The evaluation indicated that Giacomo had no signs of serious underlying issues and his speech already had improved with the help of the e-mail assignments. The mother and speech therapist continue to e-mail weekly about tasks and progress.

"My story may not seem like much, but the stress that comes not only with living overseas, but also raising a child in a country that is so different when it comes to resources, I can honestly say that Mr. DiPalma helped me in a way that could never be repaid," she wrote.

"He had made a permanent mark on my heart and inspires me to also do random acts of kindness.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Much obliged. No obligation. Honestly.

Thank you for visiting my blog. If reading is the end to writing, we're just about to complete the cycle of the printed word. And, for that, I am grateful. Some polite folk might say, "Much obliged."

You probably linked yourself to my blog by clicking on the appropriate portion of my web site, and that leads me to the "no obligation" segment of this entry's title. It speaks to one of the three main themes of my web site. Along with the theme of improving quality of life through improved communication skills, and an encapsulation of my Speech-Language Pathology Practice, there appears the recurring invitation to call for a free, friendly, no obligation telephone consultation. And, finally, we are led to the last element of today's title, "honestly." I honestly mean all of what that theme statement implies.

I have been providing counsel, imparting information, allaying fears, drying tears and, generally, answering questions and doling out advice over the phone for thirty five years. It is most often appreciated by the caller. But, how do you get the public to believe that you are available to them with absolutely no obligation on their part to "sign on the dotted line", so to speak, simply because we will have talked for a while? For three and a half decades I have been able to project this absence of pressure through an honest, caring and gentle tone, while addressing those countless thousands who have called for a myriad of reasons. I have never been tempted to use whatever the speech therapy version of, "what do I have to do to put you in a car today?" might be. I simply listen and advise.

Yet, in all my years of extending this form of community service to those in need by taking the time to give my neighbors whatever help can be administered through a telephone call, I have never devised the most effective wording for conveying the message of, "yes, I will; honestly" regarding my offer to listen and confer.

It may seem ironic for a speech and language professional to be at a loss for proper phraseology but, with one large gulp, I will swallow my pride and admit that the magic formula for expressing my sincerity in this matter continues to allude me. Perhaps the world has become too skeptical.

So, to you, my readers and web site visitors, allow me to postulate that you have a need to converse with someone of my profession. And, let me make you a promise which is true for all who seek to "pick my brain". Call me. It's free, it's friendly, it's completely without obligation, and will be of the highest professional standard.

If you haven't reached this blog through my web site, please visit it at
You'll probably learn at least one thing you never knew. Honestly.