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Keep an eye on Washington state’s initiative, warns long-term care insurance expert

Keep an eye on Washington state’s initiative, warns long-term care insurance expert
Keep an eye on Washington state’s initiative, warns long-term care insurance expert

As July 1 approaches the anniversary of the enactment of the nation’s first public, tax-based long-term care insurance program, voters in Washington state “now have the opportunity to make the program optional, and early polls show that’s very likely,” Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, said Wednesday.

“The outcome in Washington will likely have implications for other states considering long-term care initiatives,” Slome added in a statement. “Policymakers are closely monitoring voter sentiment, and if it cannot withstand resistance in a state with no state income tax, what does the future hold in high-tax states like California and New York?”

Undecided voters need to be educated about the value of long-term care insurance, Slome said.

Under the program, adult workers pay into a trust fund that funds “a comprehensive range of long-term care services and supports,” including assisted living, nursing homes, home care and costs such as meal delivery or building wheelchair ramps. When the program was announced, it was supposed to allow eligible state residents to apply for up to $36,500 to cover such costs.

Workers in the Evergreen State must pay a monthly payroll tax of 58 cents per $100 of income. Slome pointed out that a worker earning $150,000 would earn $870 more in annual income by opting out of the program.

“It would be interesting to know what motivated one in four respondents to stay with the program. In particular, what message motivated those who are taxed for the future benefit?” he said.

Older workers have no financial incentive to vote for the abolition of mandatory long-term care insurance, Slome said. “It is well known that seniors vote, so the voting strength of this bloc could be very decisive for the outcome,” he added.

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