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Washington's GOP isn't finished battling against the WA Cares Fund

caption: The Washington State Capitol in Olympia.
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The Washington State Capitol in Olympia.
NW News Network

A group of Republican lawmakers is working on a bill that proposes to change Washington state's new long-term care law. Deductions for the WA Cares Act started July 1.

Workers in Washington who don't already have a long-term care policy in place are now required to contribute 58 cents for every $100 they earn to the new WA Cares Fund. But state Sen. John Braun of Centralia says that he and his fellow Republicans plan to present a bill that would make the program optional.

RELATED: What you need to know about the WA Cares Fund

"If you don't want to participate, you don't have to explain why. [The bill] also allows, if you're opting out now, before the end of the year, you could get a refund while you're waiting for your exemption to go through," Braun said.

During a press conference, Braun further admitted that the op-out option could lead to the downfall of the WA Cares Fund. He argues that the issue of long-term care is a "real problem" that "deserves serious thought," but the WA Cares Fund will ultimately be "woefully inadequate."

"This proposal doesn't fit the bill. People don't like it. It doesn't work," he said. "It doesn't provide significant benefit to most of the folks who participate. In fact, if you look at total benefit available, $36,500, even in today's market, it's not nearly enough."

Exemptions are currently available for those who've purchased private insurance plans, military spouses, and out-of-state workers.

Sen. Braun says the GOP group expects to have the new bill finished within the coming weeks. They hope to present it during a special session or during the next legislative session, which begins January 2024.

Following the Republicans' press event, We Care for WA Cares responded, arguing that the GOP group is attempting to "gut" the program while offering no "viable alternative solution to our State’s Long Term Care affordability crisis."

We Care for WA Cares is supported by a group of organizations representing health care, labor, retirees, and other advocate groups. Members include AARP, SEUI, the Washington Health Care Association, and others.

“Long term care is a universal need, not a partisan issue," said Jessica Gomez, campaign manager for the We Care for WA Cares coalition. "WA Cares will be a critical support to millions of working families in Washington who will experience the challenges of accessing and paying for support when the need for care at home inevitably comes along. When you experience a disabling event like a serious accident, injury, surgery, disease or the normal setbacks that can come with aging, it doesn’t matter what political party you are affiliated with. It’s disappointing to see anti-worker interests try to undermine a program that’s going to make a life changing difference for the vast majority of Washingtonians.”

We Care for WA Cares further argues that the fund grows with inflation (2.5% annually) and that a worker earing a median income in Washington ($74,398) will contribute $35.95 each month. The fund first becomes available in 2026, at $36,500.

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