Washington established a state-operated public insurance program to pay for long-term care services which is to be funded through premium collections from eligible employees. Long-term care benefits will only be available to Washington residents who have paid premiums for either:
- A total of 10 years with no more than a five-year interruption; or
- Three of the six years before the date of application for benefits.
Residents must have worked at least 500 hours during each of the 10- or three-year measurement period, as applicable.
The maximum benefit payable is $100/day up to a maximum lifetime benefit of $36,500.
Two bills (H.B. 1732 and H.B. 1733) were signed into law on January 26, 2022 to delay employer collection of Washington Cares Fund premiums from eligible employees’ until July 1, 2023. Initially, employers were to begin deducting 0.58% of employees’ wages to fund the program beginning in 2022.
The bills also broaden the classes of employees who may voluntarily opt out of the WA Cares program, including certain disabled veterans, spouses or registered domestic partners of active-duty service members, nonimmigrant visa for temporary workers, and employees with a permanent address/primary place of residence outside of Washington. Employees in these classes can begin opting out starting January 1, 2023. Notably, the opt out period for other employees who have qualifying long-term care coverage from another source (e.g., their employer, spouse’s employer, an individual policy) remains unchanged, and these employees can only opt out if they obtained private long-term-care insurance before November 1, 2021 and file an application to opt out by December 31, 2022.
Next Steps for Employers
Due to the delay of the premium collections, employers are required to fully refund employees for any premiums collected as of January 1, 2022, within 120 days of the date of collection as the Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) will not accept any premium payments for the first quarter of 2022. If an employer already remitted collected premiums to the ESD, the ESD will refund the employer within 120 days of the date they were collected, and the employer must then refund the employees.
If an employer receives an approved ESD exemption letter from an employee, employers must stop withholding WA Cares premiums and must maintain the written exemption letter received from the employee.
For more information, employers should refer to the ESD’s employer instructions.