WA Cares Trust Update – The Current Status of Washington’s Long Term Care Program

December 7, 2022

In 2019 Washington enacted the Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Act (LTSS), a long-term care program that was the first of its kind in the country. The program, also known as the WA Cares Trust, is funded by premiums paid by Washington employees through payroll deductions and offers a $36,500* lifetime benefit for services and supports such as professional in-home, residential, or nursing care, adaptive equipment, memory care, personal care, and more. Employees were allowed a one-time opportunity to apply for permanent exemption from the program if they had qualifying alternate long-term insurance coverage. The deadline for obtaining alternate coverage has passed. No other exemption basis was offered to Washington employees. Deductions for premium payments were scheduled to begin in 2022. However, the program was delayed until July 2023 in order to consider revisions to the program and give additional time for implementation.    

Premium collection is scheduled to commence July 1, 2023, and benefits will be available beginning July 1, 2026. The revised provisions of the program expand the list of individuals who may apply for exemption from the program and now include those living outside the state of Washington, certain temporary workers with a non-immigrant visa, and spouses/domestic partners of active-duty military. These individuals may receive an exemption from the program for as long as the qualifying basis for exemption exists. Furthermore, veterans with a service-related disability of 70% or more may apply for a permanent exemption, and workers born before 1968 can qualify for partial benefits of 10% for each year worked. The application for the additional exemptions will be available beginning January 1, 2023.

The WA Cares Trust website explains that the Commission overseeing LTSS Trust is continuing to explore options for making benefits available to those who apply for benefits but move out of state. Currently, benefits are only available to those residing within the State.

WA Cares Trust Breakdown:

What has not changed?

  • The basic benefits of the program have not changed.
  • Employees are still required to contribute a premium payment of $0.58 per $100 of earnings (to be reviewed bi-annually for adjustment).
  • Employers are not required to contribute to the program. They are only required to make payroll deductions, submit quarterly reports and retain copies of any exemption approval letters provided by employees. 
  • The date for obtaining qualifying alternate long-term coverage has passed. However, the deadline to apply for the exemption does not expire until December 31, 2022. 
  • Employers may not apply for an exemption for their employees even if the employer provides long-term coverage as part of its benefits package.  
  • Employers are required to make deductions for premium payments from employees’ paychecks until and unless provided with an exemption approval letter by the employee. Employers are required to stop making premium deductions from an employee’s payroll upon receipt of such exemption approval letter. 

What has changed?

  • Premium collection date: July 1, 2023
  • Benefit availability date:  July 1, 2026
  • Employees born prior to 1968 can qualify for partial benefits
  • Optional exemptions exist. Optional exemptions are not permanent, and only last as long as the basis for the exemption exists. Those eligible to apply for an optional exemption include:
    • Washington workers with a permanent address outside of Washington
    • Temporary workers with non-immigrant visas
    • Spouses and domestic partners of active-duty military
  • Veterans with 70% or more service-related disabilities may apply for a permanent exemption

Employers should expect to receive additional exemption approval letters from employees and institute a reliable procedure for tracking the exemption letters and ensuring that premium deductions are not made from those employees’ payroll. Associated Industries is happy to help members with questions concerning the WA Cares Trust or other employee issues. Please call Member Care at 509.777.2727 with your questions.

Additional information regarding LTSS Trust/WA Care Trust can be found at: Learn More About the WA Cares Fund – Long Term Care in WA State

*Benefit to be adjusted for inflation over time.