Washington state flag (Credit: WPClipart.com)

Officials in Washington state say they’re continuing to set up a public long-term care insurance (LTCI) benefits programs for workers in the state, in spite of voter opposition to an LTCI program wage tax.

Washington state lawmakers approved H.B. 1087, a bill creating a state Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Act in April. Washington state gov. Jay Inslee, D, signed the bill into law in May.

One provision in the act adds a 0.58% wage tax to help fund the program.

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Act opponents succeeded at getting a nonbinding advisory measure on the tax on the state’s general election ballot.

Voters voted 37% to 63% against the nonbinding advisory measure.

That means the voters voted against the idea of paying a new tax on wages to pay for the new public LTCI benefits program.

Ballot Measure Impact

Some agents in Washington state have been asking: Will that advisory vote actually end up having some kind of effect on implementation of the state’s public LTCI program?

Officials who responded to queries from ThinkAdvisor said the ballot measure vote should have no effect on implementation of the public LTCI program.

A media representative for the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner said the measure was simply an advisory measure. “It changes nothing about what the Legislature approved,” the official said in an email.

A media representative for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services had a similar reaction.

“I’m told the referendum does not affect the statutes, and implementation planning is proceeding as instructed by law,” the rep said.

The Program

The Washington state public LTCI program is supposed to start collecting premiums, in the form of the 0.58% wage tax, in 2022, and it’s supposed to start paying benefits for qualified beneficiaries in 2025.

The program would pay eligible claimants up to $36,500 in benefits in the first year.

A claimant could use the money to pay for residential care, home care, home-delivered meals, rides to the doctor, adaptive equipment and technology, and support for family members who provide care, according to a fact sheet provided by the state Aging and Long-Term Support Administration.

To get the benefits, a claimant must have worked at least three of the past six years, or 10 years without a break of five or more years, and the claimant must have worked at least 500 hours per year during the working years.

Self-employed people can choose to opt into the public LTCI program.

Workers who already have private LTCI can choose to opt out and get an exemption from the wage tax.

A Private LTCI Specialist Reacts

Stephen Forman, senior vice president at Long Term Care Associates Inc. of Bellevue, Washington, said in a written statement about the Washington state program that his firm supports the idea of public-private partnership programs for paying for long-term care services.

The firm also supports the public LTCI program, as long as the state maintains the exemption for residents who have private LTCI coverage, Forman said.

But, “as a Washington voter, I’d like to know what practical effect — if any — an advisory vote has on my elected representative,” Forman said.

Forman said the LTCI program wage tax lost ballot measure lost in every county in Washington state.

He said he wonders if elected representatives are listening.

Forman said he thinks that the drafters of the public LTCI program act made mistakes, because they failed to get input from critical stakeholders.

He said he’s optimistic that state regulators will listen to LTCI experts when they’re developing the regulations needed to implement the public LTCI program law.

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