Health Care Worker Bonus Program Opens in New York

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On August 3, 2022, Governor Hochul and the New York State (NYS) Department of Health (DOH) announced the opening of the Health Care Worker Bonus (HWB) Program for the payment of bonuses to eligible health care and mental hygiene workers. The enacted FY 23 NYS budget authorized the payment of workforce bonuses of up to $3,000 for health care and mental hygiene workers who provide frontline hands-on care, allocating a total of $1.2 billion to fund the payment of bonuses.

Qualified employers are required to submit bonus claims on behalf of employees eligible under Vesting Period 1 (employed between October 1, 2021 – March 31, 2022) by September 2, 2022. Similarly, qualified employers are required to submit bonus claims on behalf of employees eligible under Vesting Period 2 (employed between April 1, 2022 – September 30, 2022) by October 31, 2022.

Below, we have included links provided by DOH regarding the HWB Program.

Background

The enacted FY 23 New York State budget authorized the payment of workforce bonuses of up to $3,000 for a wide variety of health care and mental hygiene workers that provide frontline hands-on care. The enacted budget allocated a total of $1.2 billion to fund the payment of bonuses for workers that meet certain eligibility requirements. The bonus program consists of multiple employee vesting periods, with a bonus of up to $1,500 available per vesting period, for a total of up to $3,000 per employee. Employers are required to track employee eligibility, notify employees of their eligibility, submit claims for the bonus to the HWB portal and distribute bonuses to eligible employees.

HWB Program Process

Qualified employers are required to claim the bonus on behalf of their employees. An employee is not able to claim bonuses independently. For each eligible employee, an employer must collect, submit and retain an employee attestation form signed by the employee.1 The employer is also required to electronically sign an attestation that acknowledges they understand and have determined that each employee the employer included in the claiming process is eligible to receive the Healthcare Worker Bonus.2 Employers are required to pay bonuses within 30-days of receipt of payment on a claim for each qualified employee. Employers are not permitted to make advance payments.

Qualified Employers

The HWB program is available to eligible employees of qualified employers. Qualified employers under the program include providers enrolled in Medicaid with at least one employee and that bill for services under the Medicaid state plan, a home or community-based services (HCBS) waiver, or Medicaid managed care. It also includes providers, facilities, pharmacies and school-based health centers licensed under the state Public Health Law, Mental Hygiene Law, and Education Law. For those providers that are otherwise eligible and were not licensed pursuant to a certificate of need process, at least 20% of the providers patients or persons served must be eligible for Medicaid.3 An employer must evaluate and attest to whether they meet the criteria for eligibility as a qualified employer.

If an employer is not qualified, they are ineligible to submit employee claims for a bonus under the program even if the employee is otherwise eligible.

Employee Eligibility

Qualified employees must be "front line health care and mental hygiene practitioners, technicians, assistants and aides that provide hands on health or care services to individuals." An employee is only qualified if they work for a qualified employer and under an Eligible Worker Title.4 In order to be eligible, qualified employees must meet the following criteria:

  • Be continuously employed by a qualified employer for the duration the vesting period in which the claim is being submitted;
  • Must not exceed an annualized base salary (excluding any bonuses or overtime pay) of $125,000, as evidenced by an Employee Attestation, which they must complete and return to their employer;5
  • Work for a qualified employer for the required number of hours during the vesting period to be eligible for the bonus; and
  • The employee must not be suspended or excluded from the Medicaid program during the vesting period.

The employer must evaluate and attest to whether each employee meets the eligibility criteria. A qualified employee is eligible for up to two vesting periods per employer but may receive bonuses from more than one employer per vesting period or payment from more than two vesting periods from another qualified employer. However, an employee may receive no more than the $3,000 in total across all employers.

Penalties

A qualified employer who fails to identify, claim and/or pay any bonus for more than 10% of bonus eligible employees may be subject to penalties of up to $1,000 per violation. Thus, employers are subject to penalties for both the failure to submit claims on behalf of eligible employees and for incorrectly claiming the bonus for employees that are not eligible for the program. The Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG) will audit payments released by eMedNY to ensure funds were appropriately claimed and dispersed. In addition to these penalties, an employer who fails to pay any part of the bonus payment to an eligible employee is liable to the employee for the amount of the bonus owed, regardless of any recovery, sanction or penalty imposed by OMIG.

Next Steps for Qualified Employers

As a result of the short deadline for submitting claims for employees eligible under Vesting Period 1 (September 2, 2022), employers should undertake the following steps immediately:

  • Employers enrolled in Medicaid should create an account on the HWB Program Portal using a valid MMIS ID;
  • Determine which current employees were employed for the duration of Vesting Period 1 that meet the eligibility criteria for the HWB Program;
  • Employers should distribute the Employee Attestation form to eligible employees as quickly as possible;
  • Prepare to submit all eligible employee bonus claims for Vesting Period 1 by September 2, 2022; and
  • Begin to prepare for identifying current employees who were employed for the duration of Vesting Period 2 and meet the eligibility criteria for the HWB Program as these claims are due by October 31, 2022.

1 Form is available at: New York State Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus (HWB) Employee Attestation (ny.gov)

2 A copy of the attestation is available at: NYS Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus Program (HWB) Employer Attestation

3 Social Services Law § 367-w(2)(b)(iv).

4 For a complete list of Eligible Worker Titles, please see: Health Care Worker Bonus Program (ny.gov)

5 Qualified employees can be full-time, part-time, or temporary employees as well as independent contractors.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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