Repealing the unpopular long-term care insurance program and regressive payroll tax
How was the new long-term care insurance program and payroll tax established?
With no House Republican votes, the new long-term care insurance payroll tax was established by the passage of House Bill 1087 in the 2019 legislative session. House Bill 1087 created the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Program to provide individuals who have paid into the program for a specified period of time with a limited lifetime benefit (up to $36,500) to assist with future long-term care costs. To pay for the new program, the legislation created a new payroll tax – one of several tax increases passed by majority party Democrats since 2019. More information on this program and tax can be found at wacaresfund.wa.gov.
What House Republicans believe
- The long-term care insurance program and payroll tax should be repealed because they are unpopular, insolvent and inadequate.
- House Bill 1594: Repealing the long-term services and supports trust program.
- News release (Nov. 1, 2021): House Republicans call for repeal of Democrats’ new long-term care insurance program and payroll tax
- Op-ed (Oct. 31, 2021): Hit the reset button on long-term care insurance mandate (Reps. Joe Schmick and Peter Abbarno/The Seattle Times)
- House Republicans also introduced legislation that would repeal the long-term care insurance program and replace it with an optional and affordable alternative.
- House Bill 1913: Replacing the long-term services and supports trust program with affordable and optional long-term care insurance coverage.
- News release (Jan. 11, 2022): Stokesbary introduces legislation to repeal long-term care mandate and replace it with affordable and optional alternative
- House Democrats refused to give House Bills 1594 and 1913 public hearings, so House Republicans attempted to bring the legislation to the House floor for consideration through procedural motions. House Democrats voted them down.
- News release (Jan. 19, 2022): House Republicans to push for votes on bills to repeal and replace the long-term care insurance program
- Video: Rep. Peter Abbarno attempts to bring long-term care repeal bill to the House floor | Jan. 19, 2022
- Video: Rep. Drew Stokesbary attempts to bring LTC repeal and replace bill to House floor | Jan. 19, 2022
- House Republicans also introduced legislation that would reform and create fairness in the long-term care insurance program.
- House Bill 1742: Creating fairness in the operation of the long-term services and supports trust program.
What happened in the 2022 legislative session?
In the 2022 legislative session, the Democrats and governor knew they had major problems with the unpopular program and tax. Instead of addressing these problems head on, they chose to “punt” on the issues until the 2023 legislative session. They passed two bills that were fast-tracked to the governor’s desk. House Bill 1732 delayed implementation of the program by 18 months and moved premium collections out to July 1, 2023. House Bill 1733 created four new voluntary exemptions from the program.
Eventually, workers in Washington state will pay $0.58 per $100 of their earnings to fund the program. Those who pay into the program will be eligible for a lifetime maximum benefit of $36,500. Estimate your payments here. However, these numbers could change depending on what is decided in the 2023 legislative session.
Comment on House Bill 1594: Repealing the long-term services and supports trust program
The House Republican bill to repeal the new long-term care insurance program and payroll tax is House Bill 1594. You can share your views on this bill with your state lawmakers by going to this link, clicking on “Comment on this bill,” entering your address, providing your name and email address, and sharing your position and comment. Finish by clicking on “Send Comment.” This is a direct way for you to be involved in the legislative process.
Comment on House Bill 1913: Replacing the long-term services and supports trust program with affordable and optional long-term care insurance coverage
The House Republican bill to repeal the long-term care insurance program and replace it with an optional and affordable alternative is House Bill 1913. You can share your views on this bill with your state lawmakers by going to this link, clicking on “Comment on this bill,” entering your address, providing your name and email address, and sharing your position and comment. Finish by clicking on “Send Comment.”
Washingtonians said they did not want this program and tax
In the November 2019 general election, 62.92% of Washington voters said House Bill 1087, which was designed to levy 0.58% tax on wages to fund a program for long-term healthcare services, should be repealed in Advisory Vote No. 20.
News and views
- WA Cares 'relatively higher risk' investment policy approved (The Center Square)
- Assisted living facilities face staffing crisis, new survey shows (KING TV)
- U.S. nursing homes face closure risks from staffing shortages (Bloomberg/The Seattle Times)
- ‘Whole new crisis’ for WA long-term care facilities, 2 years into COVID (The Seattle Times)
- Washington’s long-term care program, WA Cares, survives another challenge (The Seattle Times)
What is long-term care insurance?
According to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner’s website: “Long-term care insurance helps with many medical, personal and social services for people with prolonged illnesses or disabilities. It can include home health care, adult day care, nursing home care and group living facility care.”
Long-term care insurance is defined in RCW 48.83.020.
How long do workers have to pay into the program to receive benefits?
Vesting occurs when an individual who works a minimum of 500 hours per year pays premiums for at least ten years (without a break of five consecutive years) or for three of the previous six years from the date of application for benefits. Those who paid for ten years are permanently vested, while those who paid for three of the last six years from the date of application for benefits vest on a temporary basis and can un-vest if they no longer meet qualifications.
When can a vested individual use the benefits?
To utilize the benefits (paid in $100 stackable units), vested individuals must reside in Washington state and need assistance with a minimum of three of ten Activities of Daily Living: medication management, personal hygiene, eating, toileting, transferring, body care, bathing, ambulation/mobility, dressing, and cognitive impairment. Individuals who meet these requirements may begin applying for benefits in January 2025.
What services qualify for use by these funds?
The funds can only be utilized with providers who are on a Department of Social and Health Services approved list for services. Funds can be spent on nursing facilities, residential settings like assisted living and adult family homes, professional caregiving like home health care, wheelchair ramps, emergency alert devices, medication reminders, Meals on Wheels, rides to doctor appointments, dementia education, caregiver support, and care coordination. Family members may qualify to receive funds upon receiving 21 to 35 hours of formal training to care for beneficiaries. Learn more about applying for benefits here.
How does the tax impact self-employed individuals?
A self-employed individual can choose to opt into the program between January 2022 and January 1, 2025, or within three years of first becoming self-employed for the first time. Self-employed opt ins are irrevocable, and the payroll tax will apply as long as they are self-employed (and if they are later employed by a qualifying employer).
Does the tax impact current retirees?
The payroll tax is levied on an “individual in employment with an employer” as outlined in RCW 50B.04.080. Therefore, current retirees who have no income from an employer would not be subject to either the tax or the benefits. However, if a current retiree earns any income from an employer, he or she would pay the payroll tax on earnings and could potentially qualify for benefits in future years if eligibility criteria is met.
How does this impact individuals who live and work in different states?
Individuals who live in the state, but do not work in the state, will not be eligible for the benefits nor will they have to pay for this tax. Those who live in another state, but work in Washington, will have to pay the payroll tax but will not be eligible to receive the benefits of the program unless they later move into the state.
What is expected of employers?
Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, employers will collect premiums from employees the same way they do for Paid Leave. Employers won’t pay any share of the contributions for their employees. Information for employers can be found at this website, which include an employer toolkit. Employers can also contact ESD through this online form.
How can I learn more?
Note: The content of this web page should not be considered or construed as legal, financial or health care services advice from the House Republicans Caucus, including its members and staff. This content is meant to be informative, including the explanation of the legislation that created and changed the Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Program and how it impacts workers, retirees and employers in Washington state. This web page will be updated when new information on the Trust Program becomes available.