As Washington state moves closer to implementing the new WA Cares Fund program, new research by AARP shows most respondents support the first-in-the-nation benefit.
The survey of 800 registered voters age 18+ explored their understanding and support of WA Cares, which is designed to provide flexible and meaningful long-term care services, ensuring that families can choose the setting and services that best meet their needs.
According to AARP's survey, half (51%) of Washington voters said they supported WA Cares. However, support for the program increases as people learn more about the specific features of WA Cares and how it differs from what is currently available from private long-term care insurers.
AARP asked respondents to weigh a number of key differences between WA Cares and most private long-term care plans.
- Eight-in-ten voters (80%) say it’s important that no one can be turned down for pre-existing conditions. Underwriting requirements for private plans often mean people with pre-existing conditions or disabilities may have to pay more or may not be able to get insurance at all.
- More than three-in-four voters (76%) say it’s important that WA Cares allows participants to pay family caregivers – something that private long-term care insurance options do not usually allow.
- Nearly three-in-four voters (73%) say it’s important that both men and women pay the same amount for coverage. Private long-term care insurance rates for women can be up to 50% more than for men.
- Almost three-in-four voters (70%) say it’s important that workers only pay into WA Cares during their working years. Private long-term care insurance payments can go on for decades after retirement.
- Seven-in-ten (70%) say it’s important that WA Cares costs less than private long-term care insurance for most workers even though the life-time benefit is smaller.
For many of those who were initially on the fence about the program, learning more about these valuable features of the WA Cares program made a significant difference. Of those who were initially unsure whether to support the program or not, a significant number (41%) said they were more likely to support WA Cares after hearing a description of its’ features. Nine percent of those who were initially opposed said they were more likely to support the program after learning more. And more than two-thirds (69%) of those who initially supported WA Cares were even more likely to support the program.
While many of us don't think about or plan for long-term care until a crisis strikes or urgency forces our hand, the fact remains that seven out of ten adults 65 and older will require some assistance to live independently as they age. According to the survey, nearly all Washington voters (98%) say it’s important to be able to choose where they receive long-term care services, and 96% say it’s important for them to have services that would help them or a loved one stay at home for as long as possible.
"We all hope to age as independently and as successfully as possible, but long-term care services can be expensive, and far too many of us are not financially prepared," says AARP State Director Doug Shadel. "Thankfully, Washington state's long-term care system is recognized as a national leader for its focus on choice and home-based long-term care services, and we're strengthening that system by launching the WA Cares Fund."
Private long-term care insurance remains out of reach for most consumers, and the cost of long-term care services can leave families on the precipice of poverty. In fact, nearly three-quarters of Washington voters (74%) are not confident or only somewhat confident in their ability to pay for their long-term care needs.
It appears that concern is well-founded, given that only 4% of those surveyed were able to correctly identify who pays for long-term care services. Three in four voters (75%) incorrectly thought either private health insurance, Medicare, or Medicare supplemental insurance would pay for a long-term care stay in a nursing home. Similarly, nearly eight in ten voters (78%) incorrectly thought that one of those options paid for home visits from a paid caregiver, like a home health aide, who helps with bathing, dressing, medications, etc.
Beginning January 2022, Washington workers will contribute 58 cents per $100 of earnings from each paycheck to the WA Cares Fund. The median income for Washington workers is $52,075, so the annual premium would be $302. Employees only pay into the program during their working years and will not have to worry about losing coverage if they change employers, lose their job or retire.
Beginning January 2025, each person eligible to receive the benefit can access services and supports costing up to $36,500, adjusted with inflation, to help live independently, including help with personal care, medical assistance, transportation, meals, and more. The benefit can also be used to pay family caregivers, who play a vital role in keeping aging loved ones at home and out of more expensive nursing home care.
"Anyone who has needed help with long-term care for themselves or for someone they care about knows preparation is key," said Shadel. "For some families, the WA Cares benefit may be all the help they need. The program can offer others the time and resources to plan for extended care," he said. "Most of all, it will give families the security of knowing they will have a resource to help get the care they need, with the benefits they want, in the settings that they prefer.”
This AARP Washington state of registered voters 18 years and older who reside in Washington was conducted from August 10, 2021 through August 24, 2021. The data are weighted by age and gender according to the sample source. The margin of sampling error for this report is ± 3.465 percent.