Most assisted living employees shut out of NYS health care worker bonus program

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Over the last several weeks, News10NBC has been reporting on the fine print of the State’s Health Care Worker Bonus Program.  Most healthcare workers who are employed by private medical and dental practices are excluded, as are home health and direct care workers and now most of those who work at assisted living facilities have discovered they’re not getting the money either. 

Many health care workers are excluded based on the requirement that the facility or agency where they work serve at least a 20% Medicaid population in order for them to be eligible.  That rules out about two-thirds of the assisted living facilities in the state and they’re not happy about it.  “Why should it be about who whether the government paid those workers or, or whether it was paid by the resident they were doing exactly the same thing,” says Lisa Newcomb, the Executive Director of the Empire State Association of Assisted Living. 

The assisted living facilities that do accept Medicaid are further limited in who they can claim the bonus for due to another line in the state’s rules that reads, “support staff are only eligible for the bonus if they work within a patient care unit of a hospital or other institutional medical setting.”  Assisted living facilities aren’t considered institutional. “These employees offer the same services, it is all the same, the residents in the nursing homes just may be frailer,” Newcomb says.

Newcomb says her organization which represents hundreds of facilities across the state, has reached out repeatedly for clarity from the New York State Department of Health. “We need to be sure that the department does, in fact, consider them eligible because what we fear or the concern is if we just go ahead without them providing that clarification and submit it potentially a year or two down the road the department could come back to the assisted living provider and say your workers were not eligible you have to pay that back,” Newcomb says.

News10NBC reached out to both the NYSDOH and Governor Kathy Hochul’s office.  A spokesman for the executive chamber says, “Governor Hochul is proud to have worked with the legislature to provide bonuses to hundreds of thousands of healthcare heroes in New York State, including a wide breadth of employees in frontline healthcare and mental hygiene professions. Governor Hochul remains committed to building on ongoing efforts to retain, rebuild, and grow our healthcare workforce and ensure we deliver the highest quality of care for all New Yorkers.”    

The spokesman also clarified that to be eligible for the bonuses, those employed in fields listed under “all other health care support workers” must be employed by a facility that offers continual medical or nursing services, such as the type provided at acute care hospitals, in-patient psychiatric facilities, skilled nursing homes, or other health-related facilities.  

As adult care and assisted living facilities are not licensed to provide the continual medical or nursing services offered at acute care hospitals, in-patient psychiatric facilities, skilled nursing homes, or other health-related facilities, generally speaking, workers at adult care and assisted living facilities are ineligible to participate.