By Gabriel Neuman, GSBA Policy Counsel and Government Relations Manager 

7 in 10 Washingtonians will need long-term care. The WA Cares Fund, a new program designed to expand long-term care benefits, will begin collecting from employees on July 1, 2023. Here’s all you need to know. For additional questions, please contact GSBA’s business support team! 

What is it? 

WA Cares Fund is a new state program that provides long-term care insurance for Washingtonians. It is a benefit you earn like Social Security that covers care in your home or a facility, as well as home modifications, meal delivery, car rides, and caregiver training. 

What does it provide? 

$36,500 in lifetime benefits, adjusted annually up to inflation. It covers bathing, meal delivery, dressing, home modifications, transportation, mobility support, home care aides, and more. It also allows family to receive payment as caregivers, helping to furnish the expenses of caring for a loved one. 

How is it funded? 

WA Cares is self-funded entirely by worker contributions. Through this program, you only contribute to WA Cares Fund while you work—contributions stop when you stop working.  

Premiums are about half of one percent (0.58%) of wages. A worker earning the median income in Washington ($52,075/year) will expect to contribute $302/year through a paycheck deduction. 

How are benefits earned? 

Each year you work at least 500 hours, you earn a qualifying year. Benefits become available in July 2026 if you need long-term care and have contributed: 

  1. 3 of the last 6 years at the time you apply, or 
  1. 10 years (without a break of 5+ years) at any point in your career 

Near-retirees born before 1968 can earn lifetime access to a partial benefit (10% of the full amount for each year they contribute). 

People who live out of state, military spouses, workers on non-immigrant visas, and veterans with 70%+ disability can choose to opt-out of earning benefits. Self-employed people can opt in.  

I am an employer, what do I need to know? 

Collecting Premiums: WA employers are required to report employees’ wages and hours and pay premiums every quarter. Beginning July 1, 2023, you’ll collect premiums from your employees the same way you do for Paid Leave. Employers won’t pay any share of WA Cares contributions from their employees. You can learn more through the WA Cares Fund Employer Toolkit. 

Private insurance exemptions are no longer available, but four types of WA Cares exemptions will be available on an ongoing basis. You can still offer long-term care insurance to your employees as a supplement to the WA Cares benefit.