Here’s the fact none of us want to face: we will probably need long term care at some point in our lives.
There will come a time when we cannot take care of ourselves due to injuries, disabilities, or other health issues such as cancer, dementia, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, or a hip break.
Long term care is not just for older adults. According to LongTermCare.gov, around 40% of people needing long term care services or support today are younger than 65.
What is long term care anyway?
Long term care means getting help with bathing, moving around, meal preparation, errands, and other basic living tasks we naturally may take for granted. You may get care in your own home, or at a rehabilitation, nursing, or long term care facility.
Many people are surprised to learn their employer’s health insurance won’t cover long term care when they are recovering from a surgery, illness, or injury.
According to WALongTermCareOptions.info, here are the ways to pay for long term care in Washington:
● WA Cares: For working WA residents through a small payroll tax
● Out of pocket: From your savings or a reverse mortgage
● Medicaid: Also known as Apple Health, only for people who have limited or no income
● Veterans’ benefits: Only for people who qualify
● Private insurance: Pay premiums to insurance companies
“A private long term care policy can be very costly,” says the WA State Office of the Insurance Commissioner. “Policies were initially underpriced decades ago and many companies are struggling to remain financially solvent. There’s a nationwide trend of steep price increases — we’ve seen up to 79% increases in Washington — for these policies, which is part of the reason why the WA Cares Fund was created.”
Many insurance companies that previously offered long-term care policies have dropped out of the market due to significant losses honoring claims. While 137 companies offered policies in 2001, today only 10 carriers offer traditional long-term care insurance to Washingtonians.
If you’re considering a corporate long-term care insurance policy, be sure to check out the company’s financial strength ratings. Low ratings mean a company may not be able to pay future claims and might even be at risk of going under.
WA Cares is a safety net, just in case your long term insurance fails
The state Legislature created WA Cares to provide a convenient and cost effective long term care option for all working Washingtonians.
“[WA Cares] is really structured in a way that is intended to ensure that people can retain their independence and remain in their own homes as long as possible,” State Representative Nicole Macri told the Associated Press. “It will provide low-income and middle-income people access to long-term care that they otherwise would not have or would have to spend their money down into poverty in order to become eligible for Medicaid.”
WA Cares is not intended to replace private long term care insurance. WA Cares is:
● a safety net for when you can’t afford long term care insurance’s high premiums, are in between jobs, or if your long term care insurance company goes under, cancels your coverage, denies your claims, or increases your premiums.
● a cost effective alternative for most working Washingtonians because payments to WA Cares stop when you retire, freeing up more cash for people who are on a fixed income.
● guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions like asthma or high blood pressure, and it gives you lots of choices - including paying a qualified family member to care for you in your own home.
Plus WA Cares treats everyone equally, so no higher costs for women. Want to be sure WA Cares is right for you? Take this 2-minute quiz.
WA Cares: Convenient and cost effective
WA Cares enrollment is automatic and convenient. No long applications or physicals, and no denials for pre-existing conditions.
Payment comes right from your paycheck at $0.58 cents for every $100. That means a person making $200,000 per year will pay just $45.96 per paycheck for guaranteed coverage from WA Cares. And coverage continues even if you are between jobs. Are you self-employed? Independent contractors, freelancers, and self-employed business people can opt in to WA Cares starting January 2022.
WA Cares benefits are up to $36,500, and those benefits will increase over time. You may also opt out of the Washington State long term care tax if you have long term care insurance before 11/1/2021
To qualify for WA long term care benefits from WA Cares, you must have worked and contributed to the fund for:
● At least ten years at any point in your life without a break of five or more years within those ten years, OR
● Three of the last six years at the time you apply for the benefit, and at least 500 hours per year during those years.
Want to know more? Check out answers to these frequently asked questions.
WA Long Term Care Options is a project of Washingtonians for A Responsible Future.