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Thousands of Petitions Delivered to Lawmakers in Olympia Urging Action on Long-Term Care Costs

BILL STATUS UPDATE: House Bill 1087 passed the House on Feb. 21 (see AARP Statement) on a vote of 63-33.  It passed the Senate on April 16 on a vote of 26-22 (see AARP Statement).  The House concurred with Senate amendments on April 23, clearing the way for Governor Inslee's signature.

For Immediate Release: February 6, 2019

Contacts:
Jason Erskine / 206-517-9345
Cathy MacCaul / 206-218-5915

Thousands of Petitions Delivered to Lawmakers in Olympia Today Urging Action on Long-Term Care Costs

OLYMPIA, WA – More than 6,000 petitions were delivered to Washington State lawmakers in Olympia today urging passage of the Long-Term Care Trust Act (LTCTA). The measure aims to address the ballooning financial insecurity millions of families and the state face for long-term care costs.

It didn’t take long for Katharine Wismer to add her name to the list. The 59-year-old Issaquah resident has been taking care of her mother for almost two years now, following her mom’s stroke at age 82. Her mom surprised both family and doctors with how well she has recovered, but she still requires professional home care assistance once a week, plus outpatient physical therapy twice a week. In addition to that care, Katharine’s help has been key in allowing her mom to continue living independently and at home where she wants to be. Katharine has taken on all the shopping, cooking, care coordination, transportation, and management of the finances.  “Thank goodness mom had the financial resources to help pay for her care,” said Katharine. “This work can take a heavy toll and I know I wouldn’t have been able to handle it all on my own.”

As for herself, Katharine says she’s not so fortunate. “Thinking about paying for my own care needs in the future honestly scares the living daylights out of me,” said

Katharine Wismer and mother at Issaquah Senior Center
Katharine Wismer (right) and her mother at the Issaquah Senior Center.
Picasa

Katharine.  Katharine was a corporate trainer for 20-years, which meant work was only good when business was good. She was often one of the first to be let go when things slowed down, so she has limited retirement savings to fall back on.  She works part time now at the Issaquah Senior Center as a Program Coordinator, which allows her the extra time she needs to care for her mom.  “I’m living pretty much paycheck to paycheck right now,” says Katharine. “I have a front row seat to how expensive long-term care can be, and my only plan right now is to hope my kids can take care of me when my time comes.”

Katharine isn’t alone. With baby boomers soon to start turning 80, a vast and vulnerable population needs help with bathing, dressing, managing medications, preparing meals, and transportation. In fact, 70% of Washingtonians 65 and older will require some type of assistance to live independently.

“Unfortunately, most Washingtonians are unprepared to meet their long-term care needs,” says AARP Advocacy Director Cathy MacCaul. “The median retirement savings for people over 65 is just $148,000, while the lifetime cost of care averages $260,000.  For many others, the need to save for their long-term care is coming as a costly surprise,” she says. “Many mistakenly believe Medicare will be there with the onset of a chronic illness or injury, but Medicare covers only limited long-term care for skilled nursing care or rehabilitation, leaving most people uninsured for their long term care needs,” said MacCaul.

AARP is working towards passage of the measure as part of Washingtonians for a Responsible Future, a coalition of aging and disability advocates, businesses, long-term care providers, labor, consumer rights organizations, and families.  The LTCTA ( HB1087 / SB5331) has passed both the House Healthcare Committee and the Senate Committee on Health and Long Term Care.  House Bill 1087 is next scheduled for an Executive Session of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 3:30pm.

The LTCTA would create a public long-term care program, providing Washingtonians with flexible and meaningful benefits, ensuring families can choose the care setting and services that best meet their loved one’s needs.  Based on a payroll premium of just over one half of one percent (.58%), vested and eligible workers would receive a lifetime benefit of $36,500, indexed to inflation.

“The program could help prevent countless middle-class families from being forced to spend down their life savings to pay for care, and would also alleviate some of the growing stress on the state’s Medicaid budget,” says Representative Laurie Jinkins (D-27), the measure’s primary legislative sponsor. “By helping people pay for care before they impoverish themselves to receive Medicaid, the Act is projected to save Washington taxpayers $19 million in the first year of operation (2022), with a net savings of over nearly $4 billion by 2052.”  The Senate version of the bill, SB5331, is sponsored by Senator Guy Palumbo (D-1).

“AARP is especially pleased with improvements made to the bill during the legislative interim concerning consumer choice and the treatment of family caregivers,” says MacCaul. “Those in need deserve flexible and meaningful options so that when the time comes, we can choose the living environment or services that best meets their needs.” The Long-Term Care Trust Act benefit focuses on consumer flexibility by providing an array of choices, including in-home care aides, adult family homes, assisted living, skilled nursing facilities, and others. The benefit can also be used to pay for medical equipment like emergency alert devices, and services including but not limited to home modification, transportation or meal preparation.

“We are also dedicated to making sure the LTCTA honors the important role family caregivers play in caring for their loved ones,” says MacCaul.  “Families are the backbone of Washington’s care system, and at some point in our lives each of us will likely take care of somebody we are close to who needs help with everyday activities.”

Family caregivers take on big responsibilities to care for their loved ones. On average they spend about 20-percent of their income on out-of-pocket costs related to caregiving. To provide this care, many caregivers quit or reduce time at their jobs and lose income, social security credits or other benefits like health insurance. The LTCTA provides the opportunity for family caregivers to be compensated under the Long Term Care Trust Act with a limited amount of training.

“Crafting a viable and robust program to help Washingtonians better prepare for their long-term care needs is critically important for our families and for our state,” says MacCaul. “AARP looks forward to working this legislative session towards a solution that we can all count on.”  For more information, visit www.aarp.org/wa

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