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Republicans call for repeal of WA Cares Fund

by Staff report
| November 12, 2021 1:00 AM

State House Republicans on Nov. 1 called for a repeal of the Democrats’ long-term care insurance program and payroll tax, according to a release from the Washington House Republicans.

The WA Cares Fund was created by the passage of House Bill 1087 on April 23, 2019. Starting Jan. 1, 2022, Washington workers will pay about 58 cents per $100 of earnings for the program. Starting Jan. 1, 2025, Washington workers eligible to receive benefits can access services costing up to $36,500.

Nov. 1 was the deadline for Washington workers to secure a qualified, private long-term care insurance policy, which once secured would enable them to apply for an exemption. Many have not been able to find a policy in time or are unaware of the new program, the release stated.

Reps. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, and Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, drafted legislation to repeal the program, and said it is “unfair, inadequate, insolvent, and that the payroll tax is regressive,” the release stated.

“This program creates the false hope that people’s long-term care needs will be satisfied, when in fact, it will be woefully inadequate for the majority of those who eventually need long-term care. People who live out of state but work in Washington, those who are within 10 years of retirement, and workers who eventually move out of state, will be forced to pay into this program, but will likely never receive a benefit,” said Schmick, ranking Republican on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, in the release.

“Nearly 63% of voters said last year during an advisory vote this should be repealed. And many people weren’t aware until it was too late to opt-out that they would be forced to surrender a portion of their wages to the state through a long-term care payroll tax,” Schmick added.

“This is a regressive payroll tax that gives working families the illusion that their long-term care needs are satisfied with this ‘short-term’ limited care program. The reality is that private investments provide greater benefits with greater flexibility in long-term care. Ultimately, this is an insolvent program that will lead to higher taxes or lower benefits,” said Abbarno, in the release. “The real solution is to follow the will and vote of the people by repealing the payroll tax program and address long-term care by incentivizing investments, not punishing and marginalizing working families.”

Editorial boards, such as at The Columbian, The Seattle Times, Tri-City Herald, The Olympian, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and others, also have criticized the program.

House Republicans also might introduce legislation to make the insurance program and payroll tax opt-in only and make other suggestions. The new tax is one of many passed by Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee in the last three years despite record state tax collections, the release stated. The 2022 legislative session runs Jan. 10 to March 10.