Washington is the first state in the nation to create a trust to fund long-term care costs for its residents, which will be funded through a mandatory payroll tax of .0058 percent. Effective Jan. 1, 2022, all W2 employees will be taxed $0.58 per $100 of income, with no cap on wages. Self-employed earners can opt-in to the program when the state makes applications available in January 2022.
Beginning January 2025, each eligible person can access long-term care services and support costing up to $36,500 (lifetime benefit). Services and support may include assisted living facilities, home care, and transportation. The benefit is neither portable nor payable to individuals who move outside of the state.
To qualify for benefits from the WA Cares Fund, you must have worked and contributed to the fund for at least 10 years at any point in your life without a break of more than five years within those 10 years, or three of the last six years at the time you apply for benefits. You must also have worked at least 500 hours per year during those years.
Washington employees can request an exemption from this tax through the state between Oct 1, 2021 and Dec. 31, 2022. The exemption is available for employees who are 18 years of age or older at the time of the application and who purchase long-term care insurance that meets the state’s requirements by Nov. 1, 2021.
Naturally, as the first program of its kind in the country, employees and employers will have many questions. Here are just a few of the most significant ones. For additional information, please contact your HR department or visit the WA Cares Fund website.
If an employee opts out but later changes their mind, what can they do?
Exemptions are permanent. If your exemption application is approved, you will be permanently disqualified from WA Cares. This means you may never reenroll and you will not be eligible for the benefit.
Can employees opt out through their employer?
Employees need to apply for an exemption directly with the state. Employers cannot request exemptions on an employee’s behalf.
Where can employees find a long-term insurance plan if they choose to opt out?
Long-term care insurance may be purchased on the open market. Employees can find a list of insurance companies and other resources on the Office of the Insurance Commissioner Long Term Care Insurance page.
What if plan to move or retire outside of the state?
You must be a current Washington resident to receive the benefits. The plan is neither portable to other states, nor is it payable.
*Note: The WA Cares Fund is administered by the Employment Security Department and the Department of Social and Health Services. WSBA does not administer any portion of the program beyond collecting premiums for its employees via payroll deduction and reporting employee pay and hours.