Many health care workers find they are left out of NYS bonuses

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Some health care workers, ready to cash in on those bonuses New York State has been promising, are finding out the hard way that they are excluded. As the paperwork deadline approaches to claim the money for the first round of payments, employers are finding a lot of fine print.

Dr. Gregory Singer is a cardiologist. His private practice is based in Greece and it stayed open throughout the pandemic. When NYS’s bonus program for health care workers opened a few weeks ago he was eager to claim the cash on behalf of his dedicated employees. “The fact that there was an opportunity to reward them above and beyond what we try to provide here, it was not just financially helpful but emotionally,” he tells News10NBC.

But when his office manager sat down to actually start going through the process. “As we dug deeper we discovered that there were these exceptions, these carve-outs that seem to dismiss and disenfranchise the small business and the small private practices,” Dr. Singer says.

Turns out, most health care workers employed by private dental and medical offices are excluded. “To be dismissed like this just because you happen to work in an outpatient setting and not for a hospital, that’s disingenuous,” says Dr. Singer.

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

The NYS Department of Health tells News10NBC that workers at private medical offices with 20 percent or more of their patients receiving Medicaid would be eligible for the bonuses.

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

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

In a statement, a spokesman for Governor Kathy Hochul tells News10NBC:

“Governor Hochul is proud to have worked with the legislature to pass a budget that gives bonuses to more than 800,000 healthcare heroes in New York State and remains committed to building onto the ongoing efforts to retain, rebuild, and grow our healthcare workforce. These efforts will ultimately ensure that we deliver the highest quality care for all New Yorkers.”