OLYMPIA – Washington state workers have until June 1 to apply for exemptions from the WA Cares Fund, the state’s new long-term care insurance program. Failure to apply by the deadline means that starting July 1, employers will begin deducting premiums from workers’ paychecks. While almost all working Washingtonians will contribute to the fund, exemptions are available for certain categories of workers who are unlikely to benefit from the program.
According to the Employment Security Department (ESD), over 10,000 workers who meet specific criteria have already submitted exemption applications since the criteria became available on January 1, 2023. However, ESD estimates that more than 200,000 workers may still be eligible but have not yet applied.
Private insurance exemptions are no longer available, but four new types of exemptions for the WA Cares Fund are open for ongoing applications. Veterans with a 70% or higher service-connected disability can apply for a permanent exemption. Other workers can also apply for exemptions based on specific circumstances, which must continue to exist for them to remain exempt. These circumstances include being the spouse or registered domestic partner of an active-duty U.S. armed forces member, working in Washington but living out of state, or holding a temporary non-immigrant visa, such as H-2A and H-1B visas.
Workers who wish to apply for an exemption are urged to do so as soon as possible. The ESD will process all exemption applications submitted on or before June 1, 2023, before premiums take effect in July. Applications received after June 1 will still be processed, but the exemptions will not take effect until October 1, 2023, at the earliest since premiums are collected on a quarterly basis.
ESD Commissioner Cami Feek emphasized the importance of submitting exemption applications promptly, stating, “Our goal is to process as many applications as possible before workers see their first paycheck deductions in July.”
To apply for an exemption from the WA Cares Fund, workers can complete the application online at wacaresfund.wa.gov/exemptions. Once the application has been approved, the ESD will notify the worker via email, and within 48 hours, the worker can access and print a copy of their approval letter from their WA Cares exemption online account.
Workers are responsible for providing their exemption letter to their current and future employers to ensure that premiums are not deducted from their paychecks. Refunds will not be available for workers who fail to submit their letter in time.
Employers are encouraged to share exemption information with their employees and remind them to apply. The WA Cares website offers resources, including an employer toolkit and webinar recordings, to assist employers in informing their workers.
WA Cares is a new program aimed at providing long-term care insurance coverage to working Washingtonians, including paid family caregivers and in-home care. The program offers a modest benefit at an affordable cost to help individuals remain independent in their own homes for as long as possible.
By contributing 0.58% of their wages during their working years, working Washingtonians can earn $36,500 in lifetime long-term care insurance coverage, adjusted for inflation.
The clock is ticking for workers who qualify for exemptions from the WA Cares Fund. Applying before June 1 will ensure that their paychecks remain untouched, providing them with the peace of mind of avoiding premium deductions.