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Exemptions update

On Jan. 27, Gov. Inslee signed a bill that delays parts of WA Cares implementation by 18 months and makes changes to exemptions. See below for further info.

How to know if an exemption is right for you

Already have a long-term care plan?

WA Cares can supplement private long-term care benefits, especially if you won’t retire for three or more years. You can also choose to apply for an exemption from WA Cares coverage. Learn more about vesting in WA Cares Fund.

Considering a private long-term care insurance plan?

You can still participate in WA Cares Fund or — if you’ve purchased a qualifying plan by Nov. 1, 2021 — you can apply for an exemption from the public benefit.

Feb. 2022 update

  • Exemptions will be made available to groups who did not previously qualify, including workers who live outside of Washington, military spouses, workers holding non-immigrant visas, and certain veterans with disabilities. Exemption applications for newly eligible groups will become available January 1, 2023.

    Note: Workers who wish to apply for an exemption because they hold a long-term care insurance plan purchased by Nov. 1, 2021 must still apply by Dec. 31, 2022.

Your choice is permanent

If you apply and are approved for an exemption, you’ll be permanently disqualified from WA Cares. This means you may never re-enroll and you’ll be prohibited from getting WA Cares benefits, even if you need them.

Feb. 2022 update

  • Workers already approved for a permanent WA Cares exemption because they hold a long-term care insurance plan do not need to reapply. Opting back in is not an option provided in current law.
  • Starting Jan. 1, 2023, exemptions granted to military spouses, non-immigrant visa holders, and those living outside Washington will not be permanent. Exemptions for these workers will only remain valid if the exemption criteria are met (e.g., if a worker living out of state moves to Washington, they would no longer be considered exempt).

Differences between WA Cares Fund and private long-term care insurance plans

WA Cares FundPrivate insurance plans
You only pay WA Cares Fund premiums while you’re working — not after retirement
Private long-term care insurance usually requires continuous payments. If you don’t keep up, your policy could lapse and leave you without coverage.
You can access benefits after three years of contributions. And after paying into the WA Cares Fund for ten years, the money is available to you for life. Learn more about temporary and permanent vesting.
If you stop paying your premium, you may lose your coverage.
WA Cares will provide you with coverage as long as you’ve worked long enough to vest and retire in Washington state. Learn more about temporary and permanent vesting.
The cost of private group policies, like those provided by some employers, may change if you leave that employer or retire.
No matter your age or health status, the WA Cares Fund provides affordable long-term care coverage.
Private insurers may deny coverage based on age or health status.
The current rate for WA Cares premiums is only 0.58 percent of your earnings. For someone with annual wages of $50,000, that’s $290 a year in premiums.
Private plans may cost more depending on age or health status, and rates can fluctuate. The Office of the Insurance Commissioner has seen rate increases ranging from 20 to 79 percent.
You can use your WA Cares benefits as soon as you’re vested and found eligible. After you’re determined eligible, private plans may require a waiting period before paying benefits.
After you’re determined eligible, private plans may require a waiting period before paying benefits.
WA Cares can pay for in-home care, facility care, equipment, training, consultation, meal delivery and family-provided care. Learn more about WA Cares benefits.
Private plans may limit benefits or have extra requirements for accessing benefits.

Applying for an exemption


To apply for a permanent exemption, you must: 

  • Have purchased a qualifying private long-term care insurance plan before Nov. 1, 2021. Learn more about what qualifies as a long-term care policy under state law.
  • Be at least 18 years of age. 
  • Submit an exemption application to the Employment Security Department (ESD). Exemption applications became available on Oct. 1, 2021. ESD can only accept exemption applications through Dec. 31, 2022.

Next steps 

ESD will review your application and notify you if you’re eligible for an exemption from WA Cares coverage.  

If your application is approved

You’ll get an exemption approval letter from ESD, at which point you’ll be:

  • Expelled from the program with no option to re-enroll. 
  • Disqualified from accessing WA Cares benefits in your lifetime. 
  • Required to present your exemption approval letter to all your current and future employers. Once you provide your approval letter to your employers and the effective date of your exemption has passed, your employers must stop withholding premiums. If your employers continue to withhold premiums, they must return them to you. If, however, you fail to present your approval letter to your employers, they have no responsibility to return premiums.

Exemptions will take effect the quarter after your application is approved.

Need assistance?

Learn more 

FAQ — Exemptions

With the law delayed, do I still need to/can I still apply for an exemption?
Yes. If you purchased private insurance prior to Nov. 1, 2021, and want to be permanently exempt from WA Cares, you must still apply for an exemption by Dec. 31, 2022.

If you already have an approved exemption, it can’t be canceled at this time. If the Legislature makes changes to that part of the law in the future, ESD will communicate directly with customers to explain their options.

Did the deadline for having a private LTC insurance in place change?
No. There were no changes to the requirements for permanent exemption for individuals who have their own long-term care insurance. To be eligible, you must be at least 18 years of age and have purchased a qualifying long-term care insurance policy before Nov. 1, 2021. The window to apply for this exemption type started Oct. 1, 2021 and will continue through Dec. 31, 2022.

For new residents that just moved into the state, can we buy insurance now and get an exemption?
No. There is a one-time exemption application period for those with private long-term care coverage in place prior to Nov. 1, 2021.

Can I cancel my private LTCI since the program was delayed?
The legislative changes delayed parts of the WA Cares implementation by 18 months but the requirements and deadlines for this type of exemption didn’t change. If you already have an approved exemption, it’s up to you to decide to maintain or cancel your private long-term care policy. You should speak with your broker or agent who sold you the policy about options.

Can I get a refund for the private policy I purchased?
Purchasing a private policy to qualify for a WA Cares exemption was a voluntary decision by individuals wishing to opt out of the program. If individuals have already received an approval letter from ESD exempting them from the WA Cares program, their exemption is still approved and will still be effective once premium assessment begins on July 1, 2023.

The recently passed laws do not change the requirements for private long-term care insurance and exemption status in RCW 50B.04.085. It is up to individuals to decide whether they wish to maintain or cancel their private long-term care policies. The laws also do not provide for reimbursement of the cost of long-term care insurance voluntarily obtained by individuals.

The purchase of a private policy is between the customer and their private insurance provider. Customers should contact their insurance provider with questions.

FAQ — New exemption types

Exemptions for non-residents and/or those not living in WA – does the law change fix this?
The Legislature recently passed a law that adds new groups who may apply for an exemption based on certain criteria, such as living out of state, temporarily working in Washington with a nonimmigrant visa, marriage to an active-duty military member, and being a veteran with a 70% or greater service-connected disability.  These exemption applications will become available Jan. 1, 2023. More information will be available at in the coming months.

What are the new exemption types and how do I know if I qualify?
New legislation created additional exemption types. You can’t apply for these exemptions until Jan. 1, 2023. The new exemptions are for people who are:

  • Living out of state – Your primary residence must be outside of Washington.
    • You will no longer qualify if you change your primary residence to Washington.
  • Temporarily working in Washington with a nonimmigrant visa – You must hold a nonimmigrant visa for temporary workers.
    • You will no longer qualify if your nonimmigrant visa status changes and you become a permanent resident or citizen employed in Washington.
  • A spouse or registered domestic partner of an active-duty military member – You must be married to or have a registered domestic partnership with an active-duty service member in the U.S. armed forces.
    • You will no longer qualify if your spouse or domestic partner is discharged or separated from military service or upon dissolution of the marriage or registered domestic partnership.
  • A veteran with a 70% or greater service-connected disability – You must be rated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as having a service-connected disability of 70% or greater.
    • This exemption is permanent.

What do I do if I no longer qualify for one of above exemptions?
Your exemption will be discontinued when you no longer qualify for an exemption, and you will begin paying premiums and earning coverage for WA Cares Fund.  You will be required to notify the Employment Security Department and your employer within 90 days of no longer qualifying.  Failure to notify the Employment Security Department and your employer within 90 days will result in the payment of any unpaid premiums with interest at the rate of 1% per month to the Employment Security Department.   

What documentation will I need to provide when applying for exemptions that begin Jan. 1, 2023?
The Employment Security Department will be developing rules and providing information about what is required for the new exemption groups. 

More information will be available at in the coming months.

More FAQs about exemptions

Need more info?

  • Visit our Learn More page to read our frequently asked questions, including specific questions about exemptions.
  • Email and a member of our team at the Employment Security Department will follow up with you.
  • Call the Employment Security Department’s WA Cares representatives at the (833) 717-2273.