WA Gov. Inslee signs bills delaying WA Cares Act



The Capitol Dome of the Legislative Building is reflected on Capitol Lake.

The Olympian

Gov. Jay Inslee signed two bills Thursday that will make changes to the Washington Long-Term Care Trust Act, just a day after the Senate approved the legislation.

One of the bills will delay implementation of the program until July 1, 2023. Introduced by Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, House Bill 1732 passed the Senate on Wednesday with a 46-3 vote. Employees whose bonuses have already been deducted from their pay should expect reimbursement within 120 days.

“Once again with this program, Washington is leading the way on health care,” Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said during the floor debate. “This is a first in the national program, we should be proud of it and we will deliver for Washingtonians with this program.

“But with such an important and impactful program, especially so innovative, it makes sense to take the time to get it right,” Billig said.

Other legislation will make changes to the program, including an opt-out option in certain circumstances.

House Bill 1733, presented by Rep. Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor, would allow certain disabled veterans, military spouses and temporary workers to opt out. People who would not be eligible to receive benefits and people with their own private coverage can also opt out under the new legislation.

The bill passed by 38 votes to 11.

The state legislature enacted the program, also known as the Washington Cares Fund, in 2019. The program is intended to serve as a long-term insurance option for Washingtonians and would be used to help pay for medical necessities including nursing homes or assisted living. . The program offers a lifetime maximum benefit of up to $36,500. Eligible people who are acquired can apply for the benefit from 2025.

A payroll tax was set to take effect Jan. 1, with Washingtonians seeing a 0.58% reduction in their paychecks starting this month.

However, concerns over the bill’s implementation caused the 2022 legislature to address the issue. Lawmakers were concerned about people who would have to contribute to the program but who would never be eligible to receive benefits. Last month, the governor announced that the payroll tax would be delayed until April unless the legislature steps in to set a new date.

Some Republicans have had doubts about the program since its adoption. House Minority Leader JT Wilcox of Yelm criticized Democrats earlier this month for not listening to initial Republican concerns. He said these new changes could have been avoided if Democrats had passed Republicans’ amendments to the original legislation.

Other Republicans have also spoken out on the subject.

“The math just doesn’t work,” Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, said during floor proceedings Wednesday. “We’re all excited about it, but we realize it just doesn’t work, the idea has a flaw.”

“At this point… no one has made a mistake, everything is fine,” Braun said. “The only mistake…is when you don’t recognize that it won’t work. You don’t agree that we have to back down, we have to rethink the problem, we have to try another way.

Braun said there’s no disagreement that the state needs some kind of long-term care insurance, but the issues Republicans flagged three years ago still stand.

This story was originally published January 27, 2022 2:43 p.m.

Shauna Sowersby was a freelancer for several local and national publications before joining McClatchy’s North West Newspapers covering the Legislative Assembly.

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