On January 27, 2022, Governor Inslee signed legislation that modifies the Washington long-term care (LTC) program. The legislation:
- Delay. HB 1732 (HERE) delays the WA Cares program by 18 months, with the premium collection starting July 1, 2023, and benefit eligibility starting July 1, 2026.
- Near-retirement benefit added. Individuals who were born before January 1, 1968 and who have paid into the program for at least one year are eligible for at least a partial benefit. Under these circumstances, a person may receive one-tenth of the maximum number of benefit units for each year of premium payments. However, benefits will not be available until July 1, 2026.
- Refund of collected premiums. The bill gives employers 120 days to refund back to employees any collected premiums prior to July 1, 2023. If the premiums were collected but not yet remitted to the WA Employment Security Department (ESD), the employer is required to refund the collected premiums to the employee. If the collected premiums were remitted to the ESD, the employment security department will refund the premiums to the employer within 120 days of the collection of the premiums, who is then required to return any premiums collected from the employee.
- Additional opt-out exemptions. A companion bill, HB 1733 (HERE), provides for additional voluntary opt-out exemptions starting in January 2023 for:
- A veteran of the United States military who has been rated by the United States department of veterans affairs as having a service-connected disability of 70 percent or greater;
- A spouse or registered domestic partner of an active duty service member in the United States armed forces whether or not deployed or stationed within or outside of Washington;
- An employee who holds a nonimmigrant visa for temporary workers and is employed by an employer in Washington; or
- An employee who is employed by an employer in Washington, but maintains a permanent address outside of Washington as the employee’s primary location of residence.
These exemptions will cease to apply in the event of a change in circumstances, such as if the individual is discharged from the military, the spouse becomes divorced, the employee establishes a permanent address within Washington as the employee’s primary location of residence, or the employee no longer holds a nonimmigrant visa for temporary workers and is a permanent resident or citizen employed in Washington. An employee who had applied for an exemption and ceases to satisfy its requirements must notify the ESD and their employer within 90 days. The employer must then begin collecting premiums from the employee.
ESD has updated instructions for employers (HERE) and will be providing additional information and guidance in February.