A Washington commission voted this week to delay changes to a long-term care fund known as WA Cares.
Earlier this week, a Washington commission voted to delay “making any recommendations to address various issues raised about the WA Cares Fund.” The commission, known as the Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Commission, is responsible for overseeing the state’s new long-term care program. Despite the delay, lawmakers are set to take a look at WA Cares in January when the state legislature reconvenes after the holidays. One of the things lawmakers will look at is the “groups of people who are currently required to pay into the program’s payroll tax but will never receive any benefits.”
Why was the lawsuit delayed, though? Well, it turns out there is a federal lawsuit filed against WA Cares. That’s one of the main reasons recommended changes to the program were delayed. The commission is made up of advocates, legislators, and other various stakeholders. When commenting on the lawsuit and decision to delay changes to WA Cares, Rep. Frank Chopp, D-Seattle said:
“I would much rather prefer saying that the Legislature should address these issues that are raised in the list of issues, but not recommend things today…I’m very concerned about that lawsuit…I mean I’m not a lawyer, but I read the articles about it. It raises some questions and I’d like to have some answers.”
WA Cares was approved back in 2019 by Governor Jay Inslee (D). The program “imposes a 0.58% payroll deduction on Washington workers beginning in January…Then, starting in 2025, eligible beneficiaries can start claiming up to $36,500 to help pay for home care.” Proponents for the program describe it as a “social insurance program to help pay for in-home care and meal delivery, transportation, and nursing and assisted living care, among other things.”
However, the program has plenty of opponents who claim the program “excludes too many people who will pay in but never receive its benefits.” They cite “older people who won’t have time to get vested under the law’s current timeline, as well as workers who ultimately leave the state to retire elsewhere and military families rotating through the region.”
Workers who live in other states but work in Washington are also ineligible for benefits and make up about 150,000 individuals, according to WA Cares Fund Director Ben Veghte.
The suit against the program was filed earlier this month in the Western District of Washington by six individuals and three businesses. Inslee and a handful of state officials are named as defendants. The suit argues “WA Cares breaks multiple federal laws, such as one forbidding a state from passing a law requiring employees to participate in a plan providing medical or sickness benefits.” Additionally, it claims “disparate treatment of people paying the tax but not getting any benefits if they aren’t a resident of Washington, and that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection and the Privileges and Immunities clauses.”