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Long-Term Care Funds Could Grow Under WA Measure

The Washington State Investment Board says investing long-term care funds in private equity could bring in a 7% to 8% return. (indysystem/Adobe Stock)
The Washington State Investment Board says investing long-term care funds in private equity could bring in a 7% to 8% return. (indysystem/Adobe Stock)
October 21, 2020

SEATTLE -- Washington voters soon will decide on a measure that could stretch funds for long-term care.

Senate Joint Resolution 8212 would allow a portion of funds from the Long-Term Care Trust Act to be invested in stocks and bonds for higher returns. The resolution to put the measure to voters got bipartisan support in the Legislature this year, passing 45-3 in the Senate and 96-1 in the House. Without this law, said state Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, who sponsored the resolution, the state expects a 1% to 2% return on investment.

"The long-term average for the State Investment Board is closer to 7% or 8%," he said, "so a significantly higher return on investment, which means one of two things: Either we can reduce the tax rate, which would be my preference, or we could potentially increase the benefits. Either way, the state's citizens come out better in the end."

The Long-Term Care Trust Act funds services through a payroll fee of slightly more than 0.5%, with lifetime benefits capped at $36,500. Opponents of the measure say it's too risky to invest public funds in the stock market.

The measure needs approval from voters because the state Constitution prohibits investing public funds into private equity. Braun said the state has lifted the prohibition in three previous cases and has been successful. He said he believes there could be consequences if the state doesn't invest.

"We either can't afford to deliver long-term care to our seniors in the future, or we have to pay much higher tax rates to deliver that care," he said. "So, it's not like doing nothing is a complete safe harbor."

Seventy percent of people age 65 and older will need long-term care services, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With the state's population aging, Braun said, it's important to tackle long-term care costs now.

"The more we do to prepare, as a society and individually, for that eventuality in all of our lives," he said, "the better off we are."

The measure is supported by a coalition of groups, including AARP Washington, the Alzheimer's Association and League of Women Voters. Election Day is Nov. 3.

The text of SJR 8212 is online at app.leg.wa.gov, and the HHS data is at aspe.hhs.gov.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA