At least 90 percent of Washingtonians over age 65 don’t have savings to pay for long-term care. They could be forced to sell everything they have to qualify for taxpayer-funded Medicaid home care or be left alone when they need help the most.
Most injured, ill, or elderly people want to stay in their own home if they can. That’s what our new state benefit, the Washington Cares Fund (WA Cares), will do—help people get the care they need to stay in their own homes if possible.
Washington was the first state in the nation to create a benefit to help working families afford longer term care in the event of an illness, injury, disease, or to pay for home care as we age and need help with daily living tasks like dressing, bathing, meals, and medication management.
Unlike corporate insurance, you don’t pay into WA Cares when you’re not working, including after you retire. You can’t be rejected for a pre-existing condition. And it follows you from job to job. Corporate long-term care insurance is very expensive and notoriously unreliable, requiring that you continue to pay premiums even after you retire, denying or canceling coverage for no reason, hiking up premiums, or just going out of business with no notice.
Dr. Charles Mayer, a Seattle area family physician, says, “I tell my patients—you may think Medicare or other insurance will cover care at home should you need it. It will not. You’ll have to tap into your savings, your home equity, or worse, declare bankruptcy.”
Long-term care is not just for older adults. According to LongTermCare.gov, around 40 percent of people needing long-term care services or support today are younger than 65.
Dani Rice of Asotin, WA says she never thought she would need long-term care, but she was wrong. Dani was just 30 when she was paralyzed during a routine medical procedure, putting her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. “I’m self-sufficient today,” she says. “But if I require more help at home—if my husband has to quit his job to care for me—we’d have to sell our house. Now, with WA Cares, we know we have a safety net. We can even use our benefits to pay a family member or friend to provide care for us when the time comes.”
Many people rely on family members to help them with daily care as well as medical care. As the population ages—the number of people aged 85 and older is likely to double in the next 20 years—and the number of people who live with early-stage memory loss likely doubling as well, we are fortunate to have a new tool that can make life easier and help us continue to live in the homes we know and love.
Working people will begin to contribute to WA Cares Fund, through payroll deduction, in July 2023. Benefits will become available for qualified, eligible individuals in July 2026.