Evelyn Wynn

Volume 75, Issue 3, 879-912

The United States is facing a growing challenge in financing long-term care as the population ages and the demand for these services continues to grow. The cost of long-term care can be exorbitant, with many individuals and families struggling to afford the care they need. The baby boomer generation and their families are facing the challenges of aging, which will be exacerbated by a lack of funding for long-term care. Given unmarketable private insurance policies and Medicaid’s spend down strategy, among other issues, the United States needs a feasible financing solution for long-term care.

In response to this challenge, Washington state has created Washington Cares Fund (“WA Cares”), a unique benefits program which provides qualifying Washingtonians with a benefit used to purchase long-term care services. The program is funded through a payroll tax equal to 0.58 percent of certain employees’ wages, and those eligible can access care costing up to $36,500—adjusted annually for inflation—over their lifetime. While the program is more affordable and equitable than other current options, some argue that the benefit is insufficient, and there are concerns about the program’s solvency and legality. Despite these criticisms, programs like WA Cares are innovative and necessary solutions to the increasingly daunting long-term care financing crisis. Other states should examine the program and consider whether a progressive social insurance benefit could be a possible solution to their own long-term care financing goals. This Note explores the strengths and weaknesses of WA Cares and similar efforts made in other states to raise funding for long-term care.