During the 2022 legislative session, Governor Inslee and the legislature created several exemption pathways for Washington workers who aren’t likely to use their WA Cares benefits in the future. This page details what we know about those exemptions so far, when you can apply and what it means for your WA Cares benefit going forward.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, Washington workers became eligible for exemptions from WA Cares if any of the following apply to them:
- Live outside of Washington.
- Are the spouse or registered domestic partner of an active-duty service member of the United States armed forces.
- Have non-immigrant work visas.
- Are veterans with a 70% service-connected disability rating or higher.
Workers will only qualify for these exemptions as long as these circumstances apply. Workers will no longer qualify for an exemption if:
- They change their permanent residence to within Washington.
- Their immigration status changes and they become a permanent resident.
- Their spouse is separated from military service or the marriage/partnership is dissolved.
Exception: Veterans with a 70% service-connected disability rating or higher will receive a permanent exemption.
Applying for an exemption
Unlike the previous exemption pathway, which had a deadline to apply, these exemptions became available on an ongoing basis Jan. 1, 2023. The Employment Security Department is responsible for processing applications for those wishing to seek an exemption under these new categories. Sign up for the WA Cares Fund mailing list to receive updated information about exemptions, as well as other important program news.
If your exemption is approved
You will receive an exemption approval letter from the ESD, which you will need to present 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.
Please note: If you fail to present your approval letter to your employers, any premiums that may have been collected will not count toward benefit eligibility and employers have no responsibility to return those premiums to you.
Exemptions will take effect the quarter after your application is approved.
Private insurance opt-out
Those who had private long-term care insurance on or before Nov. 1, 2021, were able to apply for an exemption from the WA Cares Fund from Oct. 1, 2021, until Dec. 31, 2022. This opt-out provision is no longer available.
FAQ — Exemptions
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 documentation will I need to provide when applying for an exemption?
We need to verify certain documents when you submit your exemption application. Make sure you’re fully prepared.
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.
FAQ — Private insurance opt-out
Can I still apply for a private LTC insurance exemption?
No. Those who had private long-term care insurance on or before Nov. 1, 2021, were able to apply for an exemption from the WA Cares Fund from Oct. 1, 2021, until Dec. 31, 2022. This opt-out provision is no longer available.
Can I cancel my private LTC insurance 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 LTC insurance 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 laws passed in 2022 did 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 did 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.