State agencies begin implementing improvements to WA Cares Fund


OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee signed two bills, House Bill 1732 and House Bill 1733, which make changes to the WA Cares Fund, a first-of-its-kind program ensuring all Washingtonians have access to affordable long-term care when they need it. House Bill 1732 enables near-retirees to qualify for partial benefits and delays the WA Cares Fund by 18 months, directing employers to begin withholding premiums starting July 1, 2023. House Bill 1733 will allow certain veterans with disabilities, spouses and registered domestic partners of military service members, workers on temporary nonimmigrant visas, and employees who work in Washington but live in a different state to opt out of WA Cares.

“Washington is the first state to take bold action to address the looming long-term care crisis,” said DSHS WA Cares Director Ben Veghte. “Over the past year, we have heard concerns from the public regarding coverage gaps in the program. The reforms enacted today address those concerns.”

The Department of Social and Human Services and the Employment Security Department are two of several state agencies partnering to deliver this benefit to Washingtonians. Some of ESD’s responsibilities for the program are employer reporting, premium collection and exemptions while DSHS is generally responsible for WA Cares Fund benefits. Both agencies have started implementing the changes.

Beginning in July 2023, employees will pay $0.58 per $100 of earnings into the fund. ESD has started work to delay employer reporting and premium collection by 18 months. It has updated its website with basic information for employers and people who’ve applied for exemptions. ESD won’t accept any WA Cares premium payments for the first quarter of 2022 and will communicate more detailed guidance to employers in February.

“The Legislature and Gov. Inslee’s work to improve WA Cares this session will give employers and the public more time to understand and prepare for this first-in-the-nation program,” said ESD Commissioner Cami Feek.

Employers should:

  • Stop withholding WA Cares premiums from employee earnings.

  • Reimburse employees for WA Cares premiums within 120 days of the date premiums were collected.

  • Continue to maintain copies of exemption approval letters for workers who provided them.

Exemptions. ESD is continuing to monitor legislation that could affect exemptions and will communicate any changes as soon as we can.

Benefits. Employees’ contributions will allow them to later receive up to $36,500 in long-term care benefits over their lifetime. Eligible employees will now begin to receive benefits in July 2026. The benefit will be adjusted annually up to inflation. It can be used for services like professional personal care in your home, dementia support, respite for family caregivers and much more. You can read more about the available benefits here.

According to Veghte, “WA Cares will protect many Washingtonians from being driven into poverty by the need for long-term care and serve as a model for the rest of the nation. The program will make it easier for all of us to age with dignity and independence in the setting of our choice.”

The number of Washingtonians over 75 is expected to double in the next 15 years. Research shows that 70% of us will need some type of long-term care, yet only 7% can afford private long-term care insurance. Medicare does not cover it, and many families are forced to spend down their savings to qualify for Medicaid. Caregiving can also place a tremendous burden on family members who are often forced to reduce work hours, forego promotions, or leave the workforce entirely to care for a loved one.