The state Legislature’s decision to create a state-run long-term care system, like nearly everything to do with long-term care at home or at a nursing facility, is a risk. It’s simply impossible to know how long care will needed or at what level for any individual. The biggest uncertainty is cost.
The projected maximum benefit per person of $36,500 seems inadequate given the soaring cost of care. The biggest concern is that this program will lull people into a false sense of security about care availability as they age.
It’s for that reason that we were dubious about the Legislature’s plan to impose a tax (called a premium payment) on workers’ wages to fund long-term care for Washingtonians.
But lawmakers approved and Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law, so at this point state government needs to make all the right moves so this program can succeed. When problems arise in the implementation process, they need to be fixed quickly. After all, we will all be paying for it starting in 2022.
It seems prudent to consider the state program only a supplement.
Under the program, workers in Washington state should be eligible to draw money from a special fund to help with the expense of long-term care at home or in a nursing facility starting in 2025.
The delay gives the state time to build up a fund, expected to hit $8 billion in a decade, to pay the benefits.
In three years workers will start to pay into the Long-Term Trust Program account through a premium based on 0.58 percent of their wages. The beneficiary — Washington residents who work three years in the previous six or work for 10 years with at least five without interruption — can receive $100 a day for care for up to 365 days or a total of $36,500 in a lifetime.
“Washington is leading the nation in a brighter way to provide for the health and security of our families,” Inslee said, adding that this is a “bold leap forward that I believe can be a template for the United States.”
It is certainly bold.
And, so too, is the other plan adopted by the Legislature this year. It creates a program to offer standardized plans for individual health coverage, to be offered by private insurers on the benefit exchange.
Make no mistake about it, this is an experiment. If it works and remains financially viable, it could be a boon for all Washingtonians and serve as a blueprint for that nation.
However, Washingtonians would be wise to look at the Long-Term Trust Program as a possible supplement for their future care. Exactly how this will all come together won’t be clear at lesat until 2025.