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Washington's first-in-the-nation long-term care program starts in January, with opt-out deadline soo

Washington workers will soon start paying a new payroll tax to fund a first-of-its-kind long-term care program.

The WA Cares fund was created by the Legislature in 2019 as a safety net for the seven in 10 people who will ultimately need professional or personal care at some point in their lives.

The only opportunity to opt out of the program is fast approaching, raising questions for workers who may be deciding whether getting a private policy is better or worse. Here, we lay out answers to some of the common questions.


Part of the motivation for creating the worker-funded program is the fact that private long-term care insurance policies can be too expensive for retirees to keep paying premiums on until they need to use them.

What's more, some companies offering those policies have failed in recent years, partly because of high usage by customers, explains Ben Veghte, director of WA Cares, which is housed in the Department of Social and Health Services.

"The people most likely to experience the risk are the most likely to buy the product," Veghte says. "If your mom has Alzheimer's or you have deteriorating health, you're more likely to buy it."

But insurance relies on more people paying in than taking out claims, and without enough "healthy" people paying in who don't draw benefits, things haven't penciled out.

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