Starting July 1, employers will begin deducting premiums from Washington workers’ paychecks for the WA Cares Fund, the state’s new long-term care insurance program.
WA Cares is a new program designed to ensure working Washingtonians can access long-term care – including paid family caregivers and in-home care – when they need it.
“The majority of us will need long-term care at some point in our lives, but most don’t have a way to pay for it,” said WA Cares Fund Director Ben Veghte, Ph.D. “WA Cares offers a modest benefit at an affordable cost to keep people living independently in their own homes as long as possible.”
WA Cares is self-funded by worker contributions and investment earnings on those contributions. Working Washingtonians earn $36,500 in lifetime long-term care insurance coverage (adjusted up to inflation) by contributing 0.58% of their wages during their working years.
While almost all working Washingtonians will contribute to WA Cares, exemptions are available for certain categories of workers who are unlikely to be able to use the benefits — but eligible workers must apply to receive the exemption.
To date, more than 10,000 workers who meet specific criteria have submitted exemption applications to the Employment Security Department (ESD) since the criteria became available on Jan. 1, 2023.
ESD estimates that more than 200,000 workers may still be eligible to apply.
Workers eligible for exemption
Private insurance exemptions are no longer available, but four new types of WA Cares exemptions are available on an ongoing basis. Veterans with a 70% or higher service-connected disability can apply for a permanent exemption from WA Cares.
Other workers are eligible for exemptions based on their circumstances. Those circumstances must continue to exist for them to remain exempt. These workers must notify their employer and ESD within 90 days if they no longer qualify.
- Workers who are a spouse/registered domestic partner of an active-duty U.S. armed forces member.
- Workers who work in Washington but live out of state.
- Workers who have a temporary non-immigrant visa, including H-2A and H-1B visas.
Workers must apply to ESD for an exemption
Workers who want to apply for one of the ongoing exemption types but have not yet submitted their application should do so as soon as possible. ESD will process all exemption applications submitted on or before June 1, 2023, before premiums take effect in July.
ESD will continue to process applications received after June 1 as quickly as possible. Applications approved on or after July 1 will not be effective until Oct. 1, 2023, at the earliest because premiums are collected on a quarterly basis.
“We’re encouraging eligible workers who want to apply for an exemption to continue sending in their applications after June 1,” said ESD Commissioner Cami Feek. “Our goal is to process as many applications as possible before workers see their first paycheck deductions in July.”
Exemption application available online
Workers can apply online for an exemption from WA Cares. Visit the WA Cares website for instructions and a link to the application: wacaresfund.wa.gov/exemptions.
Once a worker’s application has been approved, ESD will send an email informing them that their status has changed. Within 48 hours of ESD approving their application, workers will be able to access a copy of their approval letter on their WA Cares exemption online account. They will be able to print and save the letter for their records.
Workers should make sure to provide their exemption letter to their current employer and any future employers as soon as possible to ensure premiums are not deducted from their paycheck. It is the worker’s responsibility to provide their letter to their employer. Refunds will not be available for workers who do not submit their letter in time.
Learn more on the WA Cares Fund website.
ESD has resources to help employers inform their workers. Visit the employers page on the WA Cares website to access the employer toolkit, view webinar recordings and more.