Opinion: Update on number of people opting out of state’s long-term-care program

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center offers more information on exemptions to the state-imposed long-term care program.

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center offers more information on exemptions to the state-imposed long-term care program

Elizabeth Hovde
Washington Policy Center

Between May 16 and June 13, 262 more Washingtonians said “no, thanks” to the state-imposed, insurance-like program for long-term care called the WA Cares Fund. People who have private long-term-care insurance (LTCI), purchased by Nov. 1, 2021, are allowed to seek exemption from the program and its accompanying payroll tax of 58 cents for every $100 in wages. They can apply for exemption until December. 

Elizabeth Hovde
Elizabeth Hovde

This was the lowest month-to-month gain in opt-outs since the state exemption window opened in October 2021. Lawmakers expected only 105,000 workers to be free from the tax, but 478,173 people have applied for exemption, as of June 13. Approvals typically follow.

I expect the next six months to continue the downward trend. Then, in January 2023, new groups of people, including workers who live outside of Washington state, military spouses, workers holding non-immigrant visas and certain veterans with disabilities, can also apply for exemptions. (Watch here for application directions.) 

The payroll tax begins in July 2023, after an 18-month delay that was passed by the state Legislature in January.

As of June 13, the Employment Security Department reports:

  • Total opt-out requests submitted: 478,173
  • Total processed: 478,090
  • Total opt-out requests approved: 474,467
  • Applications processed as a percentage of total: 99.98 percent
  • Applications approved as a percentage of total processed: 99.24 percent

Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.


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