For insurance consumers: Changes in Washington state

Washington at the forefront for LTC

 Washington is the first state in the nation to create a means for all workers to access long-term care (LTC) insurance. Beginning in 2022, the WA Cares Fund will launch with premiums paid by workers through a payroll tax of 0.58%. The first benefits will be payable starting in 2025 to qualified contributors. The lifetime pay-out will be $36,500 and that number is expected to change over time as it is indexed to inflation.

The state’s informational page (https://wacaresfund.wa.gov/) explains premiums and includes a calculator for anyone to estimate the upcoming premium (https://wacaresfund.wa.gov/earning-your-benefits).

WA Cares Fund provides for opting-in (by self-employed individuals) and opting-out (by people who already have private LTC insurance, for example). The web pages for these cases link out to more detail and forms:
https://wacaresfund.wa.gov/self-employed-opt-in
https://wacaresfund.wa.gov/apply-for-an-exemption

Most Washingtonians will see the LTC premiums appear on paystubs starting in January. For some earners, that’s a month for other changes, too. The January paycheck may be smaller for high earners who see Social Security deductions kick in again. Similarly, 401(k) contributions re-start if the 401(k) was “maxed out” during the previous year.

Continuing Debate Around Credit Scoring and Insurance

In a back-and-forth debate the Washington state legislature, the State Insurance Commissioner, and the courts continue to consider the impact of credit scores on what consumers pay for insurance. In simplest terms, a low credit score can be part of a person’s “insurance score” and the typical impact is that insurance premiums are higher than if the person had a high credit score.

The Insurance Commissioner had issued an emergency order earlier in 2021 to ban credit scoring for 3 years. In the months since, the matter has been to the courts and the most recent court ruling (in October) was to stop the Commissioner’s ban. That means that insurance companies can continue—or go back to—using credit scores in determining insurance rates.

Especially with COVID-related pressures on family finances, the spotlight will continue on how consumers manage insurance.

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About the Author

Katy

Katy Cook is a fee-only financial planner located in Kirkland, WA and serving the Seattle area and clients across the country

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