Repeal of long-term-care law is already filed

By ELIZABETH HOVDE  | 
Dec 7, 2021
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Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, along with five other lawmakers, has pre-filed House Bill 1594 to repeal the state’s law creating a controversial program for some Washingtonians’ long-term care and instituting a payroll tax of 58 cents for every $100 earned by W2 workers to pay for it.

The Washington Policy Center has been warning about the law since its inception and hopeful for a repeal of the law once it was full-steam ahead. 

The governor has reluctantly indicated he may support delaying the new tax and, in the meantime, more lawmakers are getting on board with the idea of putting this law out of our misery. It’s possible. The thing is poorly crafted, which has given many Republicans and Democrats pause as they hear from constituents who are upset they’ll be paying for a program they might not ever need or be allowed to benefit from. 

The bill includes these high notes:

  • “The maximum benefits that a person may receive under the long-term services and supports trust program is $36,500 which will be wholly inadequate to meet the needs of most people needing care. This will lead many people to think all their long-term care needs will be paid for under the program and not plan for costs beyond the maximum $36,500 benefit.” 

Exactly. This law does not fix the long-term care problem or offer “peace of mind,” as the state agency marketing the program argues.

  • “In 2019, Washington voters recommended the repeal of House Bill 1087 in an advisory question by a resounding vote of over 62 percent.” 

Advisory votes: Who needs ‘em? Clearly not the Legislature. 

  • Voters also rejected an amendment concerning investment returns the program is based on, the bill says. Because of this, the program is not solvent in the long run and likely will require benefit cuts or tax increases.  

  • “The most tangible benefit of the experiment with the long-term services and supports trust program has been the conversation that it has prompted among Washingtonians about the best way to finance long-term care needs,” the bill’s author writes. 

That conversation is needed, as many of us will need long-term care someday. In response to this law, more people have purchased insurance policies for long-term care. Others are making alternate plans. This is good news for all Washingtonians and for Medicaid, which is often tapped for long-term care by people who don't have plans or savings in place.

  • The bill continues, “For those without the resources to save for their needs, it is unfair to burden them with financing a potential future benefit or give them the false impression all their long-term care needs will be met through this program when they are struggling with meeting the needs of today.” 

It is definitely not compassionate or wise to give Washingtonians false hope or take money away from low-income wage earners to give to high-income wage earners with a need for long-term care.

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