Public News Service | June 27, 2023

A fund to provide long-term care to Washingtonians starts this week. Workers will start paying into the Washington or WA Cares Fund starting this Saturday. In 2026, they’ll have access to up to $36,500 in benefits.

Julie Sparkman, an in-home caregiver who was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, is concerned the cancer diagnosis will make it hard for her to access private health insurance, but is relieved she will have access to WA Cares benefits.

“Even if my private insurance never, ever, ever will pay for care for me because I’m medically complex before I even need that care, WA Cares can provide that for me,” she said.

Implementation of the program originally was scheduled to begin in 2022 but was delayed for 18 months while lawmakers straightened out some of the details of the program, such as exemptions for people who live in different states but work in Washington.

Jessica Gomez, manager of the We Care for WA Cares coalition, which is made up of health, worker and consumer groups, said benefits from the program can be used to pay caregivers, but they have a variety of other uses as well.

“You can also use it for home modifications such as building a wheelchair ramp or paying for a wheelchair or putting a chair lift in your home, meal delivery services, help with taking your medication,” she explained.

Vicki Bickeford, a home care aide with pre-existing health conditions, said it is comforting to know a program like this is coming online.

“It takes a lot of the fear out of the future because I know that just like Social Security helped to give me an income when the economy turned sour in 2008, this will help provide me with the things that I need to stay alive, to stay safe,” she said.

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