Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Three local representatives, other lawmakers back bill to replace WA Cares Fund program

by Staff report
| January 13, 2022 1:00 AM

Washington state’s new long-term care program and payroll tax got immediate attention from lawmakers as the Legislature opened its session.

A bill introduced by Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, would repeal the WA Cares Fund program and its tax, and replace them with a privately managed program that aims to leverage the state’s existing revenue to make long-term care coverage both affordable and optional, according to a release Tuesday from Washington State House Republicans.

Joining in support of the bill, House Bill 1913, are Basin legislators Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, and Rep. Mike Steele, R-Chelan.

The 16-page bill received its first reading Tuesday and resides in the House Appropriations Committee.

Under HB 1913, private insurance carriers would reinsure a portion of the risk they assume when they write long-term care policies and receive a full state tax credit for all reinsurance premiums paid, according to information from Washington State House Republicans. By transferring some of their risk to the reinsurer, Stokesbary believes carriers would have lower and more predictable claims to pay out, which would enable them to offer lower premiums to subscribers.

“For years, private long-term care insurance in Washington was optional, but unaffordable for many who wanted it. While the current Washington Cares program purports to offer affordable coverage for most people, it is optional for no one, as every employee in Washington must now purchase a private plan or pay a mandatory payroll tax

... ,” Stokesbary wrote in a press release from House Republicans.

“My bill encourages individuals to responsibly plan for their long-term care needs, recognizes the long-term savings produced and the dignity preserved by allowing seniors to age in their homes, ensures coverage is affordable, leverages existing state funds, provides consumers with options, and trusts Washingtonians to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved ones,” Stokesbary added. “I believe it represents a compelling alternative to the current program, which is increasingly unpopular and decreasingly solvent.”

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