Washington state will begin to impose a 0.58% payroll deduction on Washington workers in January to fund the WA Cares Fund, a new long-term care program.

The plan, signed into law in 2019, will allow eligible beneficiaries to claim up to $36,500, starting in 2025, to pay for home health care and an array of services and equipment related to long-term health care.

Whether someone may be able to receive benefits depends on the number of years worked and spent contributing to the program, and how much assistance is required.

The Seattle Times developed a calculator to estimate how much you may pay in lifetime and annual premiums into the program, and how your total contribution may compare with the benefit, which will be adjusted to inflation.

To figure out your lifetime payment, input your annual income and the number of years you intend to work before retiring.

Be aware:

  • The calculator assumes your salary won’t change.
  • Most people will not require assistance with daily activities right at the age they retire, so the benefit may be higher by the time someone seeks it.
  • If you move away from Washington or live outside of Washington, currently you will not be eligible for benefits.
  • If you intend to retire before 2025, you will not be eligible for benefits.
  • If you intend to retire before 2032, you may only have a limited period of eligibility.

According to current eligibility requirements, an individual must have worked and contributed to the fund for at least 10 years, without a break of five or more years, or three years in the past six years at the time they apply for benefits, with at least 500 hours worked annually during those years (quarter-time work).

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Once someone works and pays into the fund for 10 years, they maintain access to the fund for life if they reside in Washington. However, if someone is close to retirement and completely stops working in the next 10 years, they can seek the benefit within three years of when they stopped working. After that period, they will lose eligibility.

If those conditions are met, someone may receive benefits if they need assistance with three activities of daily living, including medication management, personal hygiene, eating, using the toilet, bathing, cognitive function, transfer assistance, body care, mobility, or dressing.

There may be changes ahead, as state lawmakers are expected to take a look at WA Cares when the Legislature reconvenes in January, particularly at the groups of people who are currently required to pay into the program’s payroll tax but will never receive any benefits.

The program also faces a legal challenge, with a filed a federal lawsuit recently filed in the Western District of Washington.

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