State budget allocates $1.3 billion to Medicaid program for retention of employees in frontline health care & mental hygiene positions
√ Online portal launching for eligible employers to disburse funds to qualified employees
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the launch of the health care and mental hygiene worker bonus program. Enacted in the fiscal year 2023 New York state budget, the program includes $1.3 billion allocated for the payment of recruitment and retention bonuses to certain health care and mental hygiene workers, a key initiative in the governor's aim to increase the state's health care workforce by 20% over the next five years.
Bonuses will be awarded to eligible workers who make less than $125,000 annually and remain in their positions for at least six months. Disbursements will be commensurate with the number of hours worked and duration of service within designated vesting periods for up to a total of $3,000 per employee.
"Throughout the pandemic, including the early days when many were hunkered down at home, our health care workers and first responders have shown up day after day to keep New Yorkers healthy and save lives," Hochul said. "Health care workers are the foundation of our medical system, and we need to acknowledge the sacrifices they have made to bring us through these challenging times. Our bonus program is about more than just thanks; this is an investment in health care and, with it, we will retain, rebuild and grow our health care workforce and ensure we deliver the highest quality care for New Yorkers."
The new HWB provision is authorized under part ZZ of New York's 2022-23 Enacted Education, Labor, Family Assistance Health and Mental Hygiene Bill, to facilitate an incentive program for the purpose of recruiting, retaining and rewarding health care and mental hygiene workers meeting specified eligibility requirements.
New York State Acting Medicaid Director Amir Bassiri said, "The New York State Medicaid Program is glad to introduce additional compensation for the hard-working individuals providing frontline, hands-on care services to some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. The health care and mental hygiene worker bonus program advances the state's goal to ensure reimbursement strategies that incentivize high-quality care, and ensures the balance of health equity and health economy."
State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "Doctors, nurses and other health care workers are the backbone of our health care infrastructure, and crucial to ensuring patients receive high-quality care. Thanks to Gov. Hochul's commitment, these bonuses will help us reward and retain the dedicated health care professionals who have gone above and beyond to provide care for New Yorkers when they are most in need."
Employers eligible for HWB program funding include providers participating in Medicaid with at least one employee, and other providers, facilities, pharmacies and school-based health centers licensed under the state public health law, mental hygiene law and education law, as well as certain programs funded by the Office of Mental Health, Office for the Aging, Office of Addiction Services and Supports, the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, and the Office of Children and Family Services.
Employees eligible for HWB payments provide hands-on health care services and can include certain front line health care and mental hygiene practitioners, technicians, assistants, support staff and aides. They must be receiving an annualized base salary (excluding any bonuses or overtime pay) of $125,000 or less, and can be full-time, part-time, or temporary. State employees who meet the eligibility requirements for the program will be eligible to receive the bonus payments, just as eligible employees who work outside of state government will be. Such employees will be paid through existing state payroll systems.
Bonuses for employees will be determined by specific "vesting periods," or hours worked during a consecutive six-month period between Oct. 1, 2021, through March 31, 2024.
Qualified employees who work:
√ At least 20 hours but no more than 30 hours per week are eligible for a bonus of $500.
√ At least 30 hours but no more than 35 hours per week are eligible for a bonus of $1,000.
√ At least 35 hours per week are eligible for a bonus of $1,500.
A qualified employee can receive up to a maximum of $3,000 in total bonus payments over two vesting periods. Employees may not receive bonuses if they have ever been suspended or excluded from the Medicaid program, and must be enrolled in the HWB program by their employer, who are mandated to award HWB funds no later than 30 days after a worker's eligibility for a bonus has vested.
Eligible employers can submit employees who qualify for HWB payments by creating an account on the online HWB portal, which is now open at www.nysworkerbonus.com. The health care worker bonus portal will open for education sector employers in October.
Additionally, employers must be either currently enrolled and maintain an active MMIS ID with eMedNY or employers that do not have an MMIS ID, meaning they are not enrolled in the NYS Medicaid system, will need to verify that they have a Statewide Financial System (SFS) ID. Eligible employers without eMedNY can enroll at www.emedny.org.
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera said, "This health care bonus program represents our state's appreciation for the herculean efforts displayed by our dedicated health care workforce during this pandemic. This program is also a commitment from our state to actively invest in our health care professionals as a way to not only retain them, but also to make these professions attractive to more New Yorkers. We need to continue to invest in health care professionals to ensure this critical field continues grow and is able to provide quality care."
Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth E. Raske said, "The bonuses are a special recognition of what our frontline health care workers endured during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a testimonial to Gov. Hochul's leadership. The health care community thanks our workers for all they do day in and day out, and thanks the governor for her deep commitment to ensuring that New York's world-class health care delivery system stays strong and resilient for years to come."
1199SEIU United Health Care Workers East President George Gresham said, "The heroism of New York's health care workers over the past two-and-a-half years has been nothing less than extraordinary. It takes a special kind of person to become a caregiver, and to serve our communities during the greatest public health crisis in generations – often at great personal risk – deserves our utmost respect. From nurses to housekeepers, technicians to kitchen staff, health care heroes of all stripes contribute to saving lives. We applaud and congratulate Gov. Hochul, Speaker Heastie, and Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins for enacting a state budget which provides meaningful bonuses to New York's health care workers and recognizes their critical work."
Health Care Association of New York State President Bea Grause, RN, JD, said, "We owe enormous gratitude to the health care workers on the front lines of this ongoing, devastating pandemic. We are pleased to see the state recognize their extraordinary efforts with these well-deserved bonuses. We look forward to working with the governor and Legislature to further support New York's health care workforce and bolster our pipeline of future health care professionals."
New York-Presbyterian President and CEO Dr. Steven J. Corwin said, "Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care workers did the impossible in order to take care of patients and their families. They are heroes, and their unwavering commitment to all New Yorkers has been critical throughout this pandemic. By investing in our frontline workers, we are investing in the health of every New Yorker."
Erie County Medical Center Corp. President and CEO Thomas J. Quatroche Jr., Ph.D., said, "Since the onset of the pandemic, frontline health care workers across the state risked their lives to ensure our friends, neighbors and relatives received the best care possible. And they did this over and over again, often volunteering to support their co-workers and helping their often very ill patients. I applaud Gov. Hochul for ensuring that these frontline caregivers receive much-deserved compensation for their selfless sacrifice and service."
Meadowbrook Care Center (Nassau County) owner Simon Pelman said, "Post-COVID, the No. 1 issue facing the long-term care industry is finding and retaining staff. Even after the governor helped settle the highest wage contract with the workers, the unsung front-line workers deserved more. Thank you, Gov. Hochul."
More information on the HWB program and online portal can be found by calling the HWB call center at 1-866-682-0077.
The New York State Medicaid Program is a public health insurance program that provides health coverage for nearly 8 million of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, including low-income families with children, seniors, foster care, pregnant women, and persons with disabilities.
Hochul’s team said, “Employers have the responsibility to claim for eligible employees, and the department is working with provider associations to make sure all employers understand and are comfortable with the process. For updates, providers can visit the eMedNY ListServ page to subscribe to applicable ListServs. The HWB portal www.NYSWorkerBonus.com will also be updated with program updates and/or the most up to date information for employers.”