The movement to add a long term care benefit in the states is picking up momentum after the state of Washington enacted such a program that was signed by Governor Jay Inslee in May. The program is financed by a 58/100 percent payroll tax into a state fund that will take about $300 annually from employees paychecks. Those deductions are mandatory starting in 2022 for all workers except some who work part-time on a limited basis. After ten years, a person would be eligible for a $100 daily allowance to pay for a number of services including home modifications, reimbursement for family caregivers, stays in assisted living and in home help. The benefit would begin in 2025 after just three years for those with catastrophic health needs. Most persons will be eligible if they need help with three “activities of daily living.”
The benefit is not intended to meet all the long term care needs of seriously ill persons. It would help persons with short term care that may be needed or to delay the eventual need for more extensive care or placement in a nursing home.
The program allows benefits up to a lifetime total of $36,000 that will be indexed for inflation. The fund will collect about $1 billion per year and will save $34 million annually in health costs when started, according to one estimate.
There are 14 million middle income seniors who do not qualify for Medicaid or cannot afford provide long term care insurance. It has been pointed out that the Washington program helps caregivers. Washington has a $15 minimum wage so Sterling Harders, a union leader in health care noted that the new program will “help ensure that the caregivers who are providing this care are skilled, that they are trained, that they are certified, that they are paid fairly for the work they’re doing.
Michigan, Illinois and California are three other states that are seriously considering similar long term care programs. Some of the Democratic presidential candidates want to enact long term care benefits at the federal level or include them in a Medicare for All plan. Also, Medicare is now allowing Medicare Advantage plans to include some community services including meals and transportation to be included in their plans.