Business leader: Lawmakers have more to do to fix the troubled long-term care law.

The governor and Legislature, as we wrote, acted swiftly to adopt some fixes to the state’s troubled long-term care program, including delaying the associated tax for 18 months. But there’s still more work for them to do, writes Association of Washington Business president Kris Johnson.

Amid an outcry from employees and employers calling for an overhaul or repeal of the program, lawmakers quickly passed and Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that would delay implementation of the tax until July 2023, and another bill that would allow for some more people to opt out of the program.

That’s a good start, but it’s not enough. Lawmakers must address all of the flaws with the long-term care fund, known as WA Cares, rather than simply delay the start of the payroll tax and allow for a few more groups of people to opt out of it.

He reviews some of the legislative history of the program, then adds,

The payroll tax that’s intended to fund the new program amounts to 0.58% of wages, or approximately $435 per year for someone who earns $75,000, with no maximum cap. That’s a lot of money coming out of people’s paychecks, especially if some of them will never receive any benefit from it.

As he writes, a number of people paying into the program – those who retire to another state, for example – wouldn’t benefit. 

One of the bills the Legislature took up early in the session partially addresses the issue by allowing for a few more categories of people to opt out, but there are many more issues that need to be addressed, including the financial footing it now sits on.

We recommend reading his brief commentary. The quick action this year was good, but not enough.

Lawmakers are right to push pause on the long-term care program this year. But it’s critical that they use the additional time to work with employers, regulators and private-sector insurance providers to find real solutions to the real issues surrounding long-term care.

With an aging population, it’s clear that how we plan for long-term care is something that’s not going away. Simply pushing it off for 18 months is not a solution.