Republicans push back on state’s new long-term care tax

Jul 11, 2023, 9:13 AM | Updated: 11:15 am

Long-term care tax...

The elderly will make up the bulk of those who need long-term care covered by the new tax, (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

(Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

The pushback is growing over Washington’s new long-term insurance program. A group of Republican state senators wants to make it optional.

The tax is meant to help people in Washington pay for care as they age. Premiums will be paid entirely by employees through a 0.58% payroll tax.

Senate GOP Leader John Braun, of Centralia, and three other senators said they want to allow anyone to opt-out.

This isn’t without precedent. Washington has already allowed some people, like those with private long-term care insurance plans, to not pay the tax.

“The bottom line is, it’s your money,” Sen. Chris Gildon, (R-Puyallup) said to the Seattle Times. “This should be your choice on how you spend it.”

The Association of Washington Cities explained the tax as: “Premiums will be paid entirely by employees through a 0.58% payroll tax remitted to the Employment Security Department (ESD). ESD will use the Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) Program as a model to establish the Long-Term Services and Support Trust Program’s collection and reporting process.”

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Supporters of the tax say the more people who drop out, the more unstable the program will be. Benefits will begin for eligible employees on January 1, 2025.

The money from the tax goes into the WA Cares program, which will allow people to access up to $36,500 to pay for help with basic needs like food, mobility, and hygiene as they age or otherwise need that level of care either at home or a facility.

The Legislature created the program in 2019 through House Bill 1087.

The Democratic leader in the Senate, Andy Billig (D-Spokane), said in a statement that making the program optional “is tantamount to killing it.”

“If any legislators have legitimate ideas on how to solve the long-term care affordability issue or any other problem, they should absolutely introduce a bill so we can have a discussion on how to best serve all Washingtonians,” Billig said.

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Republicans push back on state’s new long-term care tax