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What we could learn from Washington State
Washington State passed the first long-term care benefit program law on April 26th. The measure is a monumental achievement not only for Washington but for the rest of the nation fighting for services as our population ages. Hawaii has launched a program in 2017 that distributes $70 a day to family caregivers, for up to a year.
The ultimate goal nationally is for some kind of universal family care, a comprehensive social infrastructure to support all the varied costs of care from birth to death. This new law for Washington is expected to save $3.9 billion in the states Medicaid costs by 2052. It’s noted that it takes bi-partisan support for this to pass. Some Republicans voted against it for political reasons, not because they disagreed with it in substance.
Washington first started talking about long-term care about 10 years ago, and they were focused on lifting caregivers out of poverty. In 2016 Washington and Montana negotiated a home care worker retirement benefit, the first of its kind in the nation.
The bill works like this: Beginning in 2022, workers will pay a modest monthly payroll tax, 58 cats on every $100 they earn in income. For an average $37,000 a year, that works out to a monthly contribution of $18. After paying into the program for three years, or a total of 10 years (with 5 consecutive years) they will be able to access it which currently maxes out at $36,500. Indexed for inflation that will be $88,000 in 30 years. That money can pay fo respite care, in-home caregiving, nursing home or assisted care facility and home modifications like ramps. Caregivers are really members of a larger health care team; they spend hours with the person they are caring for, but it’s hard for them to taken seriously as a health care professional. This is one more step toward elevating the field of caregiving.