OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state’s long-term care program - known as the WA Cares Fund - is projected to be solvent through June 2098, according to a new study published by the Office of the State Actuary.
The WA Cares Fund will begin collecting premiums in July 2023, which will eventually be used to help Washingtonians access a $36,500 benefit - adjusted annually for inflation - for long-term care insurance. Benefits will become available for qualified individuals in July 2026.
“Seven in 10 of us will need long-term care one day, and most families are financially unprepared to cope with this challenge,” said WA Cares Fund Director Benjamin Veghte, Ph.D. “Starting in July 2026, Washingtonians who have earned WA Cares benefits and need assistance to live independently due to common life events such as dementia, a serious injury from a fall, or a severe illness will have help. This will make it easier for middle-class families across our state to cope with one of life’s most challenging chapters. WA Cares’ strong financial position means that our children and grandchildren will also be supported by WA Cares and able to age with dignity and independence.”
Gov. Jay Inslee delayed the start of the program by 18 months with legislative action in January, and also addressed some concerns over the program with adjustments.
Access to the benefit to pay for things like in-home care, home modifications like wheelchair ramps and rides to the doctor is now delayed from Jan. 1, 2025, until July 1, 2026. The lifetime maximum of the benefit is $36,500, with annual increases to be determined based on inflation.
A federal class-action lawsuit was filed in November 2021 on behalf of three businesses and six individuals, saying the WA Cares Fund violates a federal law that forbids the state from passing any law that requires employees to participate in a plan that provides sickness or medical benefits.
The suit was thrown out by a judge in April on the grounds it is a state tax and therefore not within federal jurisdiction.