Healthcare worker reward program opens in New York

On August 3, 2022, Governor Hochul and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) announced the opening of the Health Care Worker Bonus (HWB) program for payment of bonuses to eligible health care and mental health workers. The enacted NYS FY23 budget authorized the payment of up to $3,000 in workforce bonuses for healthcare and mental hygiene workers who provide hands-on frontline care, providing a total of $1.2 billion dollars to fund premium payments.

Qualifying Employers are required to submit Bonus Claims on behalf of employees eligible for Qualifying Period 1 (employed between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022). September 2, 2022. Similarly, qualifying employers must submit bonus claims on behalf of employees who are eligible under Qualifying Period 2 (employed between April 1, 2022 and September 30, 2022). October 31, 2022.

Below we have included links to the HWB program provided by DOH.

background

The enacted New York State Budget for FY23 authorized the payment of worker bonuses of up to $3,000 for a variety of healthcare and mental health workers who provide frontline hands-on care. The approved budget provided a total of $1.2 billion to fund the payment of bonuses to workers who meet certain eligibility requirements. The bonus program consists of multiple employee vesting periods, with a bonus of up to US$1,500 available per vesting period, for a total of up to US$3,000 per employee. Employers are required to track employee eligibility, notify employees of their eligibility, submit rebate requests to the HWB portal, and distribute bonuses to eligible employees.

Flow of the HWB program

Qualified employers are obliged to claim the bonus for their employees. An employee cannot claim bonuses independently. For each qualifying employee, an employer must collect, submit, and retain an employee attestation form signed by the employee.1 The employer must also electronically sign a certificate certifying that they have understood and determined that each employee that the employer involved in the application process is eligible to receive the Healthcare Worker Bonus.2 Employers are required to pay bonuses within 30 days of receiving payment of an entitlement for each qualified employee. Employers are not allowed to make advance payments.

Qualified Employers

The HWB program is available to eligible employees of qualified employers. Qualifying employers under the program include providers who are enrolled in Medicaid with at least one employee and who bill for services under the state Medicaid plan, a Home or Community-Based Services (HCBS) waiver, or Medicaid-administered care. It also includes providers, facilities, pharmacies, and school-based health centers licensed under the State Public Health Act, Mental Hygiene Act, and Education Act. For providers who are otherwise eligible and have not been approved under an attestation of need process, at least 20% of the providers’ patients or individuals must be eligible for Medicaid.3 An employer must assess and confirm whether it meets the criteria for eligibility as a qualified employer.

If an employer does not qualify, it is not eligible to submit employee claims for a bonus under the program, even if the employee is otherwise eligible.

employee authorization

Qualified workers must be “frontline healthcare and mental hygiene practitioners, technicians, assistants and responders who provide hands-on health or care services to individuals.” An employee is qualified only if he works for a qualified employer and under an eligible employee title.4 To be eligible, qualified employees must meet the following criteria:

  • be continuously employed by a qualified employer for the duration of the vesting period in which the claim is filed;
  • Must not exceed an annual base salary (excluding bonuses or overtime pay) of $125,000 as evidenced by an employee statement to be completed and returned to their employer;5
  • Work for a qualifying employer for the required number of hours during the vesting period to be eligible for the bonus; and
  • The employee may not be suspended or expelled from the Medicaid program during the suspension period.

The employer must assess and certify that each employee meets the eligibility criteria. A qualifying employee is eligible for up to two qualifying periods per employer, but may receive bonuses from more than one employer per qualifying period or payments from more than two qualifying periods from another qualifying employer. However, an employee may not receive more than $3,000 in total from all employers.

Punish

A qualifying employer that fails to identify, claim and/or pay a bonus to more than 10% of eligible employees may be subject to penalties of up to $1,000 per violation. As a result, employers are subject to penalties for both failure to submit claims on behalf of eligible employees and incorrect claiming of the bonus for employees who are not eligible for the program. The Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG) reviews payments released by eMedNY to ensure funds have been properly claimed and distributed. In addition to these penalties, an employer who fails to pay an eligible employee a portion of the bonus payment will be liable to the employee for the bonus amount owed, regardless of any recovery, sanction, or penalty imposed by OMIG.

Next steps for qualified employers

Due to the short deadline for filing claims for employees eligible under Vesting Period 1 (September 2, 2022), employers should immediately take the following steps:

  • Medicaid enrolled employers should create an account on the HWB program portal with a valid MMIS ID;
  • Determine which current employees were employed for the duration of Vesting Period 1 who meet the eligibility criteria for the HWB program;
  • Employers should distribute the employee attestation form to eligible employees as soon as possible;
  • Prepare to submit all qualifying Employee Bonus Claims for Hold Period 1 by September 2, 2022; and
  • Begin preparing to identify current employees who have been employed for the duration of Restriction Period 2 and who meet eligibility criteria for the HWB program as those entitlements are due by October 31, 2022.

If you have any questions about the HWB program, please contact a member of the Manatt team.


1 The 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 Act Section 367-w(2)(b)(iv).

4 For a complete list of eligible worker titles, visit: Health Care Worker Bonus Program (ny.gov)

5 Qualified employees may be full-time, part-time, casual, or self-employed contractors.

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