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Initial Health Care Worker Bonus Requires Filing by September 2

By:

Thomas G. Eron and Catherine A. Graziose

Submitted by Firm:
Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC
Firm Contacts:
Louis P. DiLorenzo, Thomas G. Eron
Article Type:
Legal Article
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On August 3, 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus program, also known as the HWB program. Enacted in New York’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget, the program allocates $1.3 billion for the payment of recruitment and retention bonuses to certain health care and mental hygiene workers. The bonus program is part of the state’s efforts to increase New York’s health care workforce by 20% over the next five years as a response to the staffing crisis seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The initial filing period for an employer to apply for the bonus payments is open now with a deadline of September 2, 2022. Qualified Employers must identify their Eligible Workers, compute the appropriate bonuses and complete the necessary paperwork before this deadline. Additional filing deadlines follow every six months through May 2024.

What Entities are “Qualified Employers?”

Qualified employers include (i) health care providers (with at least one employee) that bill for services under the Medicaid state plan or a home or community-based services (HCBS) waiver; (ii) providers that have a provider agreement to bill for Medicaid services provided or arranged through a managed care organization to a managed long-term care plan; (iii) certain educational institutions; (iv) providers, facilities, pharmacies and school-based health centers licensed under the state Public Health Law, Mental Hygiene Law or Education Law; and (v) certain programs funded by the Office of Mental Health (OMH), the Office for the Aging, the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) and the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). 

Who is Eligible to Receive This Bonus?

Eligible employees are those who (i) make less than $125,000 annually (exclusive of overtime and bonus pay); (ii) are continuously employed by a qualified employer for the duration of at least one vesting period; (iii) work in a position included on the Eligible Worker Titles list, which consists of “front-line health care and mental hygiene practitioners, technicians, assistants and aides that provide hands-on health or care services to individuals;” and (iv) remain employed through the time of the bonus payment. Eligible employees can be full-time, part-time or temporary employees, but not be suspended or excluded from the Medicaid program during the vesting period.

What are the Vesting Periods? 

The vesting periods are a series of six-month periods between the dates October 1, 2021, through March 31, 2024, as follows:

Vesting Period

Vesting Period Start Date

Vesting Period End Date

Employer Submission Start Date

Employer Submission Close Date

One

October 1, 2021

March 31, 2022

August 3, 2022

September 2, 2022

Two

April 1, 2022

September 30, 2022

October 1, 2022

October 31, 2022

Three

October 1, 2022

March 31, 2023

April 1, 2023

May 1, 2023

Four

April 1, 2023

September 30, 2023

October 1, 2023

October 31, 2023

Five

October 1, 2023

March 31, 2024

April 1, 2024

May 1, 2024

 

What is an Eligible Worker Title?

Under the HWB program, only employees in designated job titles are eligible. They include workers who provide hands-on assistance with health services (i.e., clinical) or care services (i.e., non-clinical). To be “front-line,” such workers must provide or directly support the provision of health or care services to patients and work under one of the titles specified by the Department of Health (DOH). A complete list of eligible worker titles is available here.

What are the Bonus Amounts?

Bonus amounts vary from $500 to $1,500 per vesting period depending on the average number of hours worked by the eligible employee. Any individual employee is only eligible for two bonus payments and $3,000 in total bonus payments over the course of the program. 

How Does a Qualified Employer Submit to the State for These Bonuses?

Qualified employers are required to submit claims for bonus payments for their eligible employees. Claims must be submitted during the 30-day window identified by DOH for each vesting period as set forth in the table above.

The qualified employers must provide eligible employees with an employee attestation form and request that the form be completed and returned to the employer. An employer must have a completed employee attestation at the time of filing.

The qualified employer calculates the bonus payments due, based on hours worked by eligible employees, completes an employer attestation and files through an electronic portal established for the HWB program. Further information on the required forms and filing procedures are here. As noted, for the October 2021 through March 2022 vesting period, the filing window is now open. The submission deadline is Friday, September 2, 2022.

Bonus payments will be included as a separate line item in the employer’s Medicaid remittance. Once received, payments must be made to employees within 30 days.

Employers face monetary penalties for the failure to file for at least 90% of the bonus payments due to their employees. Further, separate documentation of the entire process of determining employee eligibility, computing bonus amounts, communications with employees, filing and ultimately payment is critical because significant program audits are anticipated. Records must be maintained for at least six years.

If you have any questions regarding the information presented in this memo, please contact Thomas EronCatherine Graziose, any attorney in Bond’s Labor and Employment practice or the attorney at the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

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