A new Washington state long-term care benefit will help roughly 72,000 in the Vancouver-area alone, according to a new study. The program, known as WA Cares, is designed to help pay a professional caregiver or even a family member when you need help with daily living tasks.
We Care for WA Cares is anticipated to help more than 3 million residents around the state, according to an impact report from We Care for Cares, a coalition of consumer and patient advocates including AARP, Alzheimer’s Association, Lupus Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis Society and Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Accessing long term care benefits can be challenging, especially for the more than 50% of people who have pre-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes or cancer who would be denied a policy by private for-profit, long term care insurance companies.
WA Cares will provide $36,500 to help pay for in-home help from a professional caregiver or even a family member, to aid in tasks like getting dressed, bathing, making food or getting around. That $36,500 amount will grow along with inflation, as well.
While younger workers may not be focused on it, more than 70% of people eventually need care, often suddenly as a result of an unexpected injury or illness. Most Americans have less than $5,000 in savings.
“70% of Us Will Need Care Eventually”
“As a single mom who also takes care of my own mother financially, I only have a few months rent in my savings,” said Selena Ostergard of Vancouver. “As a caregiver, I see how people end up needing help with things like showering and meals due to an injury or a chronic condition. WA Cares funds will stretch our dollars so we don’t have to choose between getting internet and healthy meals or getting help with dressing and showering.”
The costs of care aides, home modifications and medical equipment are added financial challenges. That’s going to put you in a tough position if something happens to you or a loved one unexpectedly, like it did to Christina Keys of Vancouver when her mother had a stroke at 63.
“A lot of people have this mentality: ‘it’s just not going to happen to me,’” Keys said. “Let me tell you from personal experience, the likelihood of you becoming a caregiver or becoming the one needing care is high. I know I’ll have help from WA Cares if the unthinkable happens like it did to my mom.”
Keys and her family had garage sales and fundraised online to help pay for her mother’s care, and Keys ultimately left her career to care for her mother.
“Safety Net for Thousands of Vancouver Residents.”
With nearly 20,000 unpaid family caregivers in the Vancouver area, WA Cares could act as a safety net for people of all different circumstances and livelihoods throughout Clark County. The benefits will be available to anyone who needs the help, including people near retirement, part-time workers, younger workers and gig economy workers. Even if you work an average of as little as 10 hours a week, you can still fully benefit.
With WA Cares helping to pay the cost of care, home modifications and medical equipment, staying home when you need care is a more viable option.
“I’ve always been a caregiver. First as a single mom raising three boys. Then as a home care aide to people with cancer, Alzheimer’s, and disabilities,” said Vicki Bickford of Vancouver. “Now I have aggressive arthritis and even walking upstairs is tough. Someday I’ll need help with daily tasks, like grocery shopping, bathing, and moving around the house. With WA Cares I’ll be able to pay a home care aide to help me and replace my stairs with a ramp.”
That’s really one of the main goals of WA Cares: it will provide millions of Washington state residents with long-term help that allows them to live in their own homes longer. The WA Cares benefits program will provide state residents with a stable, flexible, reliable support when the inevitable need for care comes along.
Long-term care insurance companies don’t have great reputations. Policies on the private marketplace can cost between $2,000 and $7,000 a year, and long term care insurance companies are known for going out of business and leaving policyholders high and dry, delaying benefits, charging women more than men and denying policies to those with pre-existing conditions. WA Cares benefits will help millions throughout the state.
“Thanks to our state legislators, Sharon Wylie, Monica Stonier, and Annette Cleveland, WA Cares will give us the choice of staying in our homes when we need care,” Bickford said.
Learn more at WeCareForWACares.org