A Monumental Win in Washington State
The state legislative session adjourned April 28 with several wins for the Seattle-King County Advisory Council for Aging & Disability Services (ADS) and other Area Agencies on Aging. One of those wins—passage of the Long-Term Care Trust Act—was monumental for the future of aging services in Washington state.
The following bills passed and have been signed by the Governor:
- Long-Term Care Trust Act—With Governor Inslee’s signature on SSHB 1087 on May 13, 2019, Washington state became the first in the nation to provide a public long-term care insurance benefit. Beginning January 1, 2022, employees in Washington shall be assessed a premium of 0.58 percent of their wages. Washington residents receive “qualified individual” status if they are at least 18 years old and have paid the premium for either: 1) three years within the last six years, or 2) for a total of 10 years, with at least five of those years paid without interruption. For a year to count toward a person being deemed a “qualified individual,” a person must have worked at least 500 hours during that year. Per the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging (W4A), the Trust Act has the potential to reshape Washington’s long-term care system as much as Washington’s adoption of Medicaid waivers did in the 1980s. Already, this legislation has been hailed as groundbreaking and monumental by news sources across the country.
- Property Tax Relief for seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities—On May 21, Governor Inslee signed SB 5160, which will base eligibility for the Property Tax Exemption Program on county median household income rather than the statewide median. This will help homeowners living in high cost regions such as King County.
- Hearing Aid Consumer Protection Bill—On April 29, Governor Inslee signed SB 5210, which will ensure that consumers get the information they need about hearing aid technologies like t-coils and Bluetooth in order to make informed decisions.
The State Budget included meaningful provisions:
- Housing Trust Fund—$175 million was provided for affordable housing projects in the capital budget.
- Dementia Services—The Dementia Action Collaborative proposal received over $1 million—full funding for three of their four requests:
- Dissemination of best practices to primary care through Project Echo at the University of Washington ($482,000)
- Expansion of public information and education using evidence-based public health messaging around brain health, warning signs of dementia, and the value of early diagnosis ($300,000)
- Early legal and advance care planning ($233,000).
Note: A request to develop a dementia care specialist program and direct services was not funded.
- Long-Term Care Case Management—Statewide, long-term care case management will receive an increase of $1.7 million in recognition of the impact that mental illness has on case complexity. This translates into about a one percent rate increase. W4A and local Area Agencies on Aging are appreciative of the increase; however, they are disappointed that it was much less than the amount that the Governor had proposed in his budget ($7.2 million).
- Adult Day Health—an increase of $1.5 million.
- Kinship Caregiver Programs—additional funding of $200,000 for a kinship care legal aid coordinator; $500,000 to expand the Kinship Care Support Program; and $468,000 for tribal kinship navigators.
If you would like to dive into the details, here is a link to the final operating budget (see pages 272–278 for DSHS Long Term Care). Also, an analysis from the Washington Budget & Policy Center may be of interest—a comparison of current and pre-recession spending.
I want to remind you that now is a great time to reach out to your legislators to thank them for their hard work during this session. And I want to thank all members of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services and everyone else who took the time to contact their legislators during the 2019 legislative session. You made a difference!
Contributor Ava Frisinger chairs the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. She welcomes input from readers via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) as well as applicants for open positions on the council. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.
Photo credit: Washington State Capitol Building photo at top by Orin Blomberg, accessed May 26, 2019 on Flickr Creative Commons.
This article originally appeared in AgeWise King County.