Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS)/WA Cares Fund employee premium
The WA Cares Fund is a new mandatory long-term care insurance benefit that can be used to purchase professional care, equipment, home safety evaluations, and/or compensation for family members who provide care. The WA Cares Fund is sometimes referred to as the Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) program. The WA Cares Fund is for all workers in Washington. This information is for state employees who have questions about the premiums and limited exemptions from the program.
UPDATE: The effective date for premium collection begins July 1, 2023. Effective January 1, 2023 there are four additional exemption types.
For in-depth information about the program and its benefits, go to:
About the program
As required in the Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Act under RCW 50B.04.080, effective Jan. 1, 2022, the State of Washington will begin to deduct a long-term care premium from your paycheck. The premium rate is 0.58% or 58 cents per $100 of earnings. Your employer must collect these premiums from employees through payroll deductions and remit the amounts collected to the Employment Security Department (ESD). All workers in Washington, including those employed by the state, will contribute to the fund to earn a lifetime benefit of up to $36,500 (adjusted annually for inflation). You will only contribute to WA Cares Fund while you are working.
Premiums will be deducted unless you purchase long-term care insurance prior to November 1, 2021 and apply and are approved for an individual premium exemption from ESD. You can apply for an exemption from October 1, 2021 through December 31, 2022, at:
4. Does the long-term disability insurance (LTD) available to state employees count as long-term care insurance for the purpose of an exemption?
No, the LTD insurance available to state employees is a separate type of insurance that is different from long-term care insurance. For this reason, LTD doesn’t meet the requirements for a premium exemption.
No. Once approved, you don’t need to reapply. An exemption from the LTSS program is a lifetime exemption. You’ll be permanently excluded from coverage and benefits—even if your private insurance carrier cancels your policy in the future. Before applying for an exemption, be sure your private insurance plan will meet your long-term care needs for life.
No. ESD can only accept applications for exemption from October 1, 2021 through December 31, 2022.
Exemptions will take effect the quarter after your application is approved. You will receive an exemption approval letter from ESD stating the effective date. You will be responsible for paying non-refundable WA Care premiums prior to the effective date of your exemption.
- If you receive an exemption approval letter from ESD after December 31, 2021 it will not take effect until April 1, 2022 (the quarter after your application is approved). Employers will withhold non-refundable WA Care premiums for the quarter prior to the effective date of your exemption, in this example that would be January 1, 2022 to March 31, 2022.
- If you submitted an application for exemption to ESD prior to 12/31/2021, but have not received an approval letter prior to that date, you will be responsible for paying the non-refundable WA Care premiums beginning 1/1/2022. If you have received an exemption approval letter from ESD prior to 12/31/2021 then premiums will not be deducted beginning 1/1/2022.
If employees complete their application for an exemption from WA Cares on or before Dec. 1, 2021, they guarantee they will process it before premiums take effect in January.
To qualify for an exemption, you must:
- Have long-term care insurance in place or purchased before 11/1/2021
- Be at least 18
- Apply to ESD for an exemption.
VA benefits aren’t a "one-size fits all" type of benefit. Not everyone who’s eligible for VA benefits may be eligible for long-term care services. To find out if your benefits include long-term care, please go to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Veterans Homes | WDVA where long-term care is referenced for veterans who are rated 70-100% service-connected disabled. If you have long-term care available to you through the VA, you may qualify for an exemption. Veterans with a 70% service-connected disability rating or higher are eligible for exemptions begining January 1, 2023.
No. Exemptions are permanent. An exempt employee may not become a qualified individual or eligible beneficiary and is permanently ineligible for coverage.
After your application is approved, ESD will send you an approval letter. Employees with an ESD-approved exemption must provide a copy of the letter from ESD to all current and future employers to notify them of their exemption. Check with your employer’s HR office on the internal process for submitting notification.
The approval letter from ESD is the only acceptable evidence an employer can rely on to not deduct, or to stop deducting, premiums for an ESD exemption. This does not apply to employees who do not meet the employee, employer, employment definition.
The employer cannot apply for an ESD exemption on behalf of an employee.
If an employee with an ESD-approved exemption does not notify their employer of the exemption and the employer continues to take payroll deductions, the employee will not be entitled to any refund of payroll deductions taken before the employer is notified.
13. If I transfer or promote from one state agency to another, do I still have to provide a copy of the ESD exemption letter?
Yes. It is the employee’s responsibility to notify all current and future employers. Transfer of hardcopy personnel & payroll files often have a lag time and may not be available upon an employee’s start date in a new agency. To ensure premiums do not get collected, the employee must provide a copy of the exemption approval to the employer.
14. As a result of the implementation delay to 7/1/2023, can I opt back in if I lose my private long-term care coverage?
No. The law around the exemptions for individuals who have purchased a LTC plan before 11/1/2021 has not changed. If you have a LTC plan before that date and received an exemption, you are not be able to become a qualified individual and the exemption is permanent.
No. Employees who live out of state must apply for the exemption from ESD. The employer cannot exempt employees without the ESD exemption letter.
- LTSS premium deductions will appear in the mandatory deductions section of the employee's earnings statement.
- Employees can estimate their deductions using the calculator on the WA Cares Fund website:
Premium deductions will continue during the time an exemption denial letter is under appeal.
18. I plan on retiring in the next few years so I might not meet the requirements to qualify for benefits. Does the payroll deduction still apply to me?
Yes, the premium will be deducted even if you plan on retiring within the next few years and/or before you meet the requirements to qualify for benefits.
19. If I applied for a premium exemption in one calendar quarter but ESD does not approve it until after the start of the next calendar quarter, when does the premium exemption go into effect?
The premium exemption goes into effect the calendar quarter after your application is approved.
20. I notified my employer and provided a copy of my exemption letter. The effective date of my exemption has passed but premiums are being collected from my paycheck. Can I get a refund?
If the employer has made an error and collected premiums from your paycheck after the effective date of an exemption and you provided timely notification to the employer, incorrectly deducted premiums will be refunded.
21. I plan on retiring after January 1, 2022. Will the premium be calculated on my cash out of annual and sick leave balances?
Retiring employees subject to LTSS premiums are liable for premium deductions on vacation and sick leave buyout earnings.
LTSS premiums are a mandatory deduction. While it is anticipated to be a rare occurrence, if the employee doesn't have enough net pay to cover all mandatory deductions, then premiums will be deducted from future wages.