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Bill Would Help Washingtonians with Long-Term Care Costs

Adriana Hutchings took care of her parents and grandmother for 14 years. (Courtesy of Adriana Hutchings)
Adriana Hutchings took care of her parents and grandmother for 14 years. (Courtesy of Adriana Hutchings)
January 18, 2019

OLYMPIA, Wash. – New legislation in Olympia aims to cover the growing cost of care for loved ones as they age.

The Long-Term Care Trust Act would collect just over half of one percent through a payroll fee from Washington workers, to be used when they need help with daily living activities. The bill is designed in part to ease the burden on unpaid family caregivers.

Adriana Hutchings is a self-described "supermom" who took care of her parents and grandmother for 14 years, and also has three special-needs kids. She describes a night when it looked as if her mother was going to pass away, but she was unable to be at her side because she was caring for her grandmother.

She says this bill would have helped.

"We would have had options,” says Hutchings. “Respite care; we could have used that money for an adult family home while my mom's care was acute. We could have had grandma taken care of by somebody else, or we could have brought in home care, so that I could be with my mom."

There are about 850,000 unpaid family caregivers statewide. Benefits from the program would max out at $36,500, and would pay $100 a day for eligible services.

To qualify, Washingtonians would have to pay into the system for 10 years, or three of the last six years, and current retirees won't be eligible for the program.

State Representative Laurie Jinkins – D-Tacoma – is sponsoring the bill and has made adjustments since first introducing it last year. She says there's more flexibility in how the benefits can be used, such as funds to train family members on certain types of care, or paying them for care.

"Those people are spending themselves into poverty too, while trying to take care of a family member,” says Jinkins. “So, it would also let people use the money, for example to build, let's say, a ramp at their home to get in and out via wheelchair; or if they just couldn't really prepare meals anymore for themselves, have meals delivered."

The bill also intends to slow the increasing cost of Medicaid. A Legislature-funded study found the bill would save the state nearly $900 million in Medicaid costs by 2051.

Hutchings says families only can rely on Medicaid when they've drained their savings, putting them on the brink.

"We want to help people not to have to spend themselves into poverty and become a burden to the rest of their community, and the rest of the state,” says Hutchings. “So, I'm really excited about the Long-Term Care Trust Act."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA