Health Care Worker Bonus Claim Submission Date Extended; FAQs Added
There are two developments related to the Health Care Worker Bonus (HWB) of which members should be aware. First, late on the afternoon of Oct. 31st, the Department of Health (DOH) issued a Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) Listserv notification that it was extending the deadline for submission of HWB claims for the second claiming period. Second, DOH added some new questions and answers to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document, which is now dated Nov. 1, 2022.
The claim submission portal had been scheduled to close Oct. 31st, but will now remain open until Nov. 30th to allow appropriate time for employers to submit claims for Vesting Periods 1 and 2. (Work dates for Vesting Period 1 were Oct. 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022; for Vesting Period 2, they were April 1, 2022 through Sept. 30, 2022). Although DOH indicates that it is aware of “several technical issues during the initial submission periods for Vesting Periods 1 and 2 that impeded the ability of certain Qualified Employers to submit claims,” the Department advises that employers document and retain information regarding the reason for any late submission for audits and investigation purposes relating to the submission of claims for the HWB Program.
The notice has been posted on the DOH HWB webpage and also appears as a new entry in the FAQ document. The extension notice is also copied below. Three more six-month vesting periods remain, beginning on Oct. 1, 2022; April 1, 2023; and Oct. 1, 2023.
The update to the FAQ document includes several answers that may provide some additional information for members. One clarifies that contracted temporary staff who are employed or contracted by a staffing agency or other intermediary entity on a temporary basis are not eligible for the HWB Program, one stresses that wage garnishments may not be applied to bonus payments, while another defines base salary to include an employee’s gross wages less any bonuses or overtime (as defined under Labor Law Section 517 and 20 NYCRR Section 2380.4).
Another FAQ clarifies that when it comes to gauging employee eligibility for the bonus, the “patient-facing” function or role of an eligible employee is only relevant for workers who qualify under the “All Other Health Care Support Workers” category in institutional settings. Registered nurses, for example, are eligible for the bonus regardless of their function, with a Qualified Employer assuming the employee meets the other eligibility criteria. The update also indicates that DOH is developing additional guidance for scenarios where an employer claims a lower bonus amount for an eligible employee that they should have.
The extension notice as well as the updated FAQs are copied below for your convenience.
Contact: Darius Kirstein, email@example.com, or Diane Darbyshire, firstname.lastname@example.org. Both can be reached at 518-867-8383.
Important Announcement Regarding October 31, 2022 Submission Date
In order to allow appropriate time for all Employers to submit claims for Vesting Period 1 and 2, the Department will keep the Healthcare Worker Bonus (HWB) Portal open to claims submissions until November 30. Qualified Employers can continue to submit claims for eligible employees during this time. Please be advised that, in accordance with SOS § 367-w(4)(f), claims submitted after October 31, 2022 for Vesting Period 1 and 2 are technically late for filing purposes. The Department is aware of several technical issues during the initial submission periods for Vesting Periods 1 and 2 that impeded the ability of certain Qualified Employers to submit claims. All Employers should document and retain information regarding the reason for any late submission for audits and investigation purposes relating to the submission of claims for the HWB Program.
Q. Are traveling nurses and temporary staff eligible for the bonus?
A. Qualified employers are responsible for identifying which of their staff are hired on a temporary or traveling basis. Contracted temporary staff that are employed or contracted by a staffing agency or other intermediary entity on a temporary basis are not eligible for the HWB program.
Q. What is the appeals process for an employee who had their submitted bonus amount reduced by the State in the HWB program portal?
A. There is no appeals process required for the HWB program. Qualified employers who have questions about their bonus payments should submit questions directly to the State to understand payment amounts and associated reductions.
Q. If an employer identifies an error in a bonus claim where they claimed a lower bonus amount for an eligible employee that they should have, how can the employer amend a submission to ensure the employee receives the correct amount?
A. Additional guidance is forthcoming.
Q. Should bonus payments be reduced for any wage garnishment liabilities (i.e., for child support)?
A. No. Any employer who fails to pay any part of the bonus payment to a designated employee shall remain liable to pay that bonus to the eligible employee regardless of any sanction or penalty OMIG may impose. See SOS §367-w (5)(c).
Q. What payments and compensation are considered part of an employee’s base salary?
A. Base salary is defined to include an employee’s gross wages less any bonuses or overtime. Gross wages are defined under Labor Law Section 517 and 20 NYCRR § 2380.4.
Q. Does any additional pay outside of an employee’s base salary count as bonus or overtime? For example, if a salaried employee picks up an additional shift at a different rate than their salary, is this considered overtime?
A. Overtime under the HWB program refers to any statutory overtime required to be compensated at 1 ½ times the regular rate of pay pursuant to New York State Minimum Wage Orders or the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Q. Should I include unpaid leave or accruals in calculating Employee hours?
A. Employers should include any allowable leave or accruals that were used by the employee during the vesting period, whether or not the time off is paid or unpaid.
Q. Does an employee’s title alone qualify them for a bonus? For example, an RN working in “Employee Health” unit and does not interact with patients that are general members of the public.
A. The “patient-facing” function or role of an eligible employee is only relevant for workers who qualify under the “All Other Health Care Support Workers” category in institutional settings. Registered Nurses, for example, are eligible for the bonus regardless of function with a Qualified Employer assuming the employee meets the other eligibility criteria.
Q. If an employee is out on disability receiving statutory disability pay, should this time be counted towards their hours worked?
Also, while for the education sector, it may be instructive to others regarding eligibility questions:
Q. Are school counselors or guidance counselors that meet all other eligibility criteria eligible for the bonus?
A. Please refer to the list of eligible titles. The behavioral health related titles are defined in the Consolidated Fiscal Report, and those definitions are provided here. If the role served by the employee in an educational setting is consistent with the definition of the job title, the employee may be eligible assuming all other requirements are met.