Many healthcare employees discover themselves excluded from NYS bonus funds

ROCHESTER, NY (WHEC) — Some healthcare workers willing to cash in on New York State’s promised bonuses are finding out the hard way they’re locked out. As the paperwork deadline approaches to claim the money for the first round of payments, employers find a lot of fine print.

dr Gregory Singer is a cardiologist. His private practice is based in Greece and has remained open throughout the pandemic. When NYS’ healthcare worker bonus program opened a few weeks ago, he was eager to claim the money on behalf of his dedicated employees. “The fact that there was an opportunity to reward them beyond what we’re trying to offer here was not only helpful financially, but emotionally,” he tells News10NBC.

But when his office manager sat down to actually go through the process. “As we dug deeper, we found that there were these exceptions, these spin-offs that seem to lay off and disenfranchise small businesses and small private practices,” says Dr. Singer.

It turns out that most healthcare professionals employed in private dental and medical practices are excluded. “Being fired like this just because you happen to be working on an outpatient basis and not for a hospital is dubious,” says Dr. Singer.

According to the NYS, employers eligible to claim the money on behalf of their employees are limited to hospitals, diagnostic and treatment centers, residential health facilities, certified home health care facilities, long-term home health care programs, hospices, mental hygiene facilities, and social service facilities , pharmacies, and NYS-funded programs such as OMH, OASAS, Office for the Aging, and OPWDD. These facilities must also accept Medicaid.

The NYS Department of Health tells News10NBC that workers at private medical practices where 20 percent or more of their patients are on Medicaid would be eligible for the awards.

“During COVID, we worked to help our medical colleagues by keeping patients out of the hospital so the truly sick could be treated,” says Dr. Singer. “The fact that we found out because of this legislation that we remain on the bench… You know, it doesn’t really sound like the medical team that we thought we were part of.”

There appears to be some leeway in the program that would allow other types of providers to be added to the list if the DOH Commissioner and Budget Director agree.

In a statement, a spokesman for Gov. Kathy Hochul told News10NBC:

“Governor Hochul is proud to have worked with lawmakers to pass a budget that awards awards to more than 800,000 healthcare heroes in New York State, and remains committed to building on ongoing efforts to empower our staff in maintain, rebuild and expand healthcare. Ultimately, these efforts will ensure that we provide the highest quality care to all New Yorkers.”

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