Washington State Leading the Way for Better Health Care
The 2019 Legislative Session has come to a close in Washington State, and AARP is proud of the support its advocates and coalition partners provided to pass two first-in-the-nation pieces of health care legislation and three consumer protection bills.
The Long-Term Care Trust Act (HB 1087) is a historic first for the nation. While 70 percent of Washingtonians over the age of 65 will require some type of long-term care assistance, very few of us are financially prepared to meet those needs. The Long-Term Care Trust Act will help address this problem by providing Washingtonians with flexible and meaningful benefits so families can choose the care setting and services that best meet their loved one’s needs. Based on a modest payroll premium of just over one-half of one percent (.58%), vested and eligible workers will receive a lifetime benefit of $36,500 indexed annually to inflation. The payroll premium will be collected starting in 2022 and the trust will pay benefits starting in 2025.
AARP also supported “Cascade Care” (SB 5526) which serves as a safety net for individuals and families with no other insurance option. This new public option will become available on the Washington Healthplanfinder this month and will provide more people with access to health care, improving health outcomes, avoiding costly emergency room visits, and reducing uncompensated care.
Additionally, AARP worked with King County Assessor’s Office and the Washington Association of Counties to increase the income eligibility under the Senior Property Tax Exemption (SB 5160), giving more older people the ability to qualify for some property tax relief. Previously, older people would not qualify for the program if their household income exceeded $40,000. In 2020, older people falling under the median income by county will now qualify for the program.
Not a month goes by that the media report on a company or credit card has been “hacked.” These breaches prompted the Washington State Attorney General to sponsor the data breach notification bill (HB 1071) to reduce the deadline for notifying consumers. It will expand the definition of “Personally Identifiable Information” to include date of birth, e-mail user names, security questions, digital signatures, medical records, military, passport, or student identification numbers. It will take effect in March 2020.
Finally, AARP supported the Uniform Guardianship Act (SB 5604). Guardianship may be necessary for those who can no longer take care of themselves. The new Act will replace and standardize existing guardianship laws starting in 2021 to reflect a person-centered philosophy. The Act requires that individuals be given meaningful, plain-language notice of their rights, and be involved in decisions affecting them. It requires guardians to create and courts to monitor person-centered plans.
While it was a very successful legislative session, AARP is not slowing down. We are gearing up to reduce prescription drug costs through the #StopRxGreed campaign (www.aarp.org/rx) and working with our partners to find legislative solutions to issues that impact people’s ability to age with purpose and dignity. For more information, visit www.aarp.org/wa.
Contributor Cathy MacCaul is Advocacy Director for AARP Washington.