As the first of the baby boomers enter their mid-seventies, the population of Washington is aging. Over the next 10 years the population over 75 will likely double. The 2019 Legislature is working to address several issues relevant to seniors. Policy makers are aware of these changing demographics and responding with investments and policies to create an age friendly Washington.
Washington State is ranked first in the nation in long term care according to the most recent AARP scorecard. This ranking is due in part to the many service options available. Challenges maintaining our system will include, developing capacity within long term care system, investments in workforce development to ensure a trained and competent caregivers are available. Financing for long term care is also critical as nearly 65% of those receiving care are funded through a state Medicaid program. Today Washington spends around $1.7 Billion dollars to deliver these services. The budget can not sustain the projected growth.
Mental Health Legislation
Over the last six years our State Legislature has convened a Joint Legislative Executive Committee on Aging and Disability issues. This had led to a state plan for managing Alzheimer’s disease and the development of the Dementia Action Collaborate which is actively producing resources for families, caregivers and the medical community to better support the needs of those living with this disease. They are seeking legislative funding to advance these efforts.
Mental and Behavioral health services and resources are a hot topic. As Western State Hospital struggles with federal decertification, and DSHS works to increase community resources for persons living with these challenges, investments are being made in expanding existing resources and developing new care options.
Long Term Care
The Department of Health and Nursing Commission submitted a report to the state legislature outlining recommendations to develop the long term care workforce. Challenges like the availability and access of training programs add to the what is already hard work for low pay. As our state’s minimum wage increases, we must invest in wages and benefits to attract workers to the care field. Streamlining requirements and developing career ladders for caregivers were additional recommendations.
Long Term Care Insurance
Long term care insurance is an expensive and hard to find product. Fewer that 7% of people have a policy. Many times when people find themselves seeking long term care they are shocked by the cost and surprised to find that Medicare or private insurance won’t pay for in home care, assisted living or other long term care services. The Long Term Care Trust Act creates a long term care benefit for workers in Washington. Through paying a payroll premium to vest in the program Washingtonians with a need for assistance will have a $36,500 benefit to spend flexibly for long term care services. The proposal is working its way through the legislative process with bipartisan support.
This session will look at the role and oversight of guardians, review the senior citizen property tax exemption and protections for vulnerable adults. This has been a very active session that I believe will end with positive results for the seniors in our state.
From John Ficker (Speaking at our April, 2019 SAN Membership Meeting)