To make the most of Washington’s new public long-term care insurance program, voters should approve Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8212.
The constitutional amendment will allow the state to invest long-term care trust fund money in the stock market. In previous years, voters have approved similar investments of funds for public pensions, workers’ compensation and the ABLE Savings Plan for people with disabilities.
Investing the long-term care fund similarly is a commonsense idea approved by both legislative chambers with little opposition. In the House of Representatives only Rep. Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, voted against the bill that put the question to voters. In the Senate, Sens. Doug Ericksen, R-Whatcom County, Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, and Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, voted no.
Without the change, state leaders will be limited to investing the fund’s balance in lower-yield bonds and certificates of deposit, as is allowed under the constitution. The change does involve some risk, which is the chief concern of the measure’s few opponents. But there are safeguards in place to protect the fund from harm.
As it does with other invested funds, the Washington State Investment Board would manage the investment of the long-term care fund to maximize returns without gambling public dollars. It is a transparent, accountable system that has helped make Washington’s one of the best-performing public pension funds in the country.
The amendment has the backing of a host of advocates for seniors, including AARP Washington, the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the Washington State Senior Citizens’ Lobby, the Washington Health Care Association and the regional branch of the Alzheimer’s Association. SEIU 775, the union that represents long-term care workers in Washington and Montana, is also backing the change.
Washington’s state-operated new long-term care insurance program will begin collecting the 0.58% payroll tax in January 2022, with claims for benefits beginning in 2025. It is a first-in-the-nation idea that should help buffer the effects of the coming “silver tsunami” as more baby boomers retire.
Eligible participants will be able to access up to $36,500, indexed to inflation, over a lifetime for the cost of nursing facilities, residential settings, personal caregiving and other supports or home modifications that can help them safely stay in their home. Under the act, family caregivers can be compensated for their time if they undergo some basic training – providing economic relief for the hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians who are caring for aging relatives.
This amendment will support the trust fund that will support Washington’s seniors. Voters should give it the green light.