This spring, Washington became the first state in the nation to enact a state-run long-term care benefit program. The Long-Term Care Trust Act, considered a breakthrough by many, lays the groundwork for over one million older adults in Washington to access the home care they need and want.
With studies showing that over 70% of adults over the age of 65 will require long-term care support and that over 90% wish to stay in their home as they age, home care provides a clear solution to meeting these needs. The rising cost of care and the absence of savings or insurance coverage for such care makes accessing home care financially out of reach for many.
Under this new law, starting in January of 2025 residents of Washington State who require assistance with three or more activities of daily living (ADLs); such as bathing, dressing, meal preparation, ambulation, or medication assistance, will have access to a $100 per day benefit to offset costs associated with their care. The Long-Term Care Trust Act will provide a lifetime benefit of $36,500 per person. A payroll tax starting in 2022 will fund the program. To access the benefit, residents must have worked and paid into the tax fund at least 500 hours per year for three of the previous six years in which they’re seeking the benefit or a total of 10 years, with at least five of those paid without interruption.
The introduction of the bill wasn’t all about feel-good policy, however. Washington legislators were seeking a solution to ever-increasing Medicaid expenses. Long-term care expenses eat up 6% of the state’s operating budget, with the state spending $24,000 per year for each Medicaid recipient receiving home care and $65,000 per year for those in nursing homes. By 2030, the state is predicting the demand for long-term care to double.
Agencies like Family Resource have worked with individuals covered by private long-term care insurance for years. Yet only an estimated 7-8 million Americans have such coverage, which is costly and generally requires applicants to pass a health screening. Many assume that Medicare covers long-term care but unfortunately, with the exception of limited skilled nursing or rehabilitation, it does not. Qualifying for public coverage under Medicaid, which covers low-income people, involves spending down lifetime savings which is an option that most families want to avoid.
This is why, in spite of the .58% payroll tax that funds this service, Family Resource Home Care sent several representatives to lobby for this bill in Olympia. We see firsthand the need and we witness the perilous effects of financial limitations when long-term care is necessary. Supporting this bill was a demonstration of a commitment to our community and the families we serve.
We may see additional legislation passed around the country, given that about two-thirds of adults favor a long-term care program similar to Medicare, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll last year. Several states have something similar on the ballot or currently going through the legislative process.
Family Resource will continue to be on the forefront of advancing programs, laws and insurance that address the need for long-term care coverage for all and find new ways to make quality home care more accessible to all.