Initiative 2124 asks voters to make WA Cares an opt-in, rather than mandatory, program

Feb 5, 2024

Key Findings

  1. WA Cares is a state-imposed program for long-term care (LTC), created in 2019 by HB 1087.
  2. The program is funded by a significant payroll tax of 58 cents on every $100 of income a Washington state worker earns, regardless of income. 
  3. A lifetime benefit of up to $36,500 will eventually go to some Washingtonians, if they meet certain health criteria, if they still live in the state and if they have paid the payroll tax for a required number of years.  
  4. This dollar amount is not typically enough to cover a person’s LTC costs, should they need services.
  5. Even with its high payroll tax, WA Cares has solvency concerns.
  6. When a temporary and limited opt-out choice was available, nearly 500,000 workers left the program.
  7. Initiative 2124 would give workers a choice about whether this program is right for their individual financial and possible health needs. It would make WA Cares a voluntary, rather than mandatory, program.


In December 2023, a citizen group called Let’s Go Washington collected enough signatures to submit Initiative 2124 to the Legislature. It was certified by Washington’s Secretary of State Steve Hobbs on January 25, 2024. It would make WA Cares an opt-in, rather than mandatory, program.

In considering Initiative 2124, lawmakers could choose to adopt it into law, offer voters an alternative that would appear on the November 5, 2024, general election ballot with the original initiative, or they could ignore the initiative, in which case Initiative 2124 would appear on the ballot without a legislative alternative.  

 Initiative 2124 would do what state leaders chose not to do: Give workers a choice about whether this program is right for their individual financial and potential long-term care needs. Those who see the program as useful to them could elect to keep participating in WA Cares. 

The key change to HB 1087 proposed by the initiative says: “An employee or self-employed person in Washington must elect to keep coverage under this Chapter. If an employee or self-employed person has elected coverage under this Chapter, the employee or self-employed person must also have the option to opt out at any time. The employment security department shall adopt rules to implement this section.” 

Aside from making participation in WA Cares voluntary, other parts of the program, such as tax rates, eligibility requirments and benefit levels, would stay the same. Lawmakers, of course, could alter the program. They have done so several times since the 2019 LTC law was passed. 


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