State payroll tax to fund long-term care program coming soon

OLYMPIA — A mandatory payroll tax to fund a new long-term care program will start coming out of most workers’ paychecks across the state in January.

The insurance benefit, dubbed the WA Cares Fund, is a first-in-nation public insurance program aimed at helping older residents age in their own homes, The Seattle Times reported.

The plan, signed into law in 2019 through the Long Term Care Trust Act, will use a 0.58 percent payroll tax to pay up to a $36,500 benefit for individuals to pay for home health care and an array of services related to long-term health care including equipment, transportation and meal assistance.

The plan is expected to save $3.9 billion in state Medicaid costs by 2052. Eligible beneficiaries will be able to begin collecting benefits starting in 2025.

The program has drawn both ire and praise from advocacy groups and politicians. Advocates cite a rapidly aging population and high premiums on the current private long-term care market, while critics have lambasted the plan as expensive, unnecessary and inflexible in terms of eligibility and payout.

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