Washington state is set to launch next year the nation’s first publicly operated insurance program next year to help offset residents’ future long-term care costs, but not all workers are on board with the payroll tax needed to pay for it.

As McKnight’s Senior Living previously reported, under the program, all adult workers will contribute to a trust, which will pay for “a comprehensive array of long-term care services and supports,” including assisted living communities, skilled nursing facilities, in-home care and expenses such as meal delivery or construction of wheelchair ramps. Starting in 2025, the program will allow vested state residents to claim up to $36,500 to help cover these expenses.

A monthly mandatory payroll tax of 58 cents on every $100 in income is scheduled to go into effect in 2022, with benefits first payable in 2025. For someone with annual wages of $100,000, that means $580 a year in premiums.

Washingtonians have until Nov. 1 to opt out of the 58% tax if they have proof of private insurance.

“Thousands are turning to private insurers for care plans in order to avoid paying a new tax,” The Columbian reported.   

Opting out of the WA Cares program could prove tricky, however, as many long-term care insurance providers are stopping sales in the state, according to National Public Radio’s affiliate Puget-sound affiliate KUOW

The long-term care insurance market is relatively small, Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, a national industry group and consumer clearinghouse based in California, told KUOW. Industry-wide, companies write approximately 48,000 policies a year, he said.

“With the November 1 deadline approaching, Slome said the companies didn’t think they had enough time to approve any more applications, a process that typically takes 60 to 90 days,” KUOW reported.

The decision to opt out is a one-time choice. 

“If you apply and are approved for an exemption, you’ll be permanently disqualified from WA Cares. This means you may never re-enroll and you’ll be prohibited from getting WA Cares benefits, even if you need them,” according to a state website.