insurance policy
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As the one-year anniversary of the effective date of the country’s first publicly operated, tax-based long-term care insurance program approaches July 1, voters in Washington state “are being given the choice to make the program optional, and early polling shows that’s very likely to happen,” Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, said Wednesday.

“The outcome in Washington will likely impact other states considering long-term care initiatives,” Slome added in a statement. “Politicians carefully watch voter sentiment, and if this can’t withstand resistance in a state with no state income tax, what will be its future in highly taxed states like California and New York?”

Educating undecided voters about the value of long-term care insurance is needed, Slome said.

Under the program, adult workers contribute to a trust, which pays 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. When the program was announced, it was to allow vested state residents to claim up to $36,500 to help cover such expenses.

Workers in the Evergreen State are assessed a monthly mandatory payroll tax of 58 cents on every $100 in income. Slome noted that for an employee earning $150,000, opting out of the program would add $870 back to his or her annual income.

“It would be interesting to hear what motivated one-in-four polled individuals to keep the program in place. Specifically, what messaging motivated those who are being taxed for the future benefit?” he said.

Older workers have no financial incentive to vote to repeal the mandatory long-term care insurance program, Slome said. “It’s commonly known that seniors vote, so how this block votes could be quite significant in the outcome,” he added.