I’m very concerned about the Washington Long-Term Care Act.
So are thousands of other employee-owners of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in several states.
Forced participation in a state-mandated program is no substitute for individual choice and responsibility. Some Washingtonians want long-term care insurance and are free to choose to purchase it in various plans offered by several providers that best suit their personal situations. One size doesn’t fit all. Others don’t want it or need it.
I am urging Gov. Jay Inslee to use his authority to stop this act before employees begin paying for something they don’t want, need, or may never see even if they did want it.
The state shouldn’t be forcing people to buy a product. Just as we do with our homes, transportation, health insurance, groceries, and so on, we need to be free to choose.
The State Actuary of Washington concluded that the program won’t raise enough money to pay the promised benefit, making further tax increases and larger cuts into employee wages inevitable. Sadly, with the program underfunded by $15 billion, today’s annual tax of $580 per $100,000 will likely increase to thousands of dollars a year.
The SEL Human Resources team held 10 informational sessions with more than 600 of our employees attending. In addition, the team received over 400 employee emails stating they don’t want this so-called benefit.
Our employees realize that many will be taxed without ever being able to qualify for this program. They also realize there’s only a one-time opt-out; and it won’t be available to their successors in hire.
Many of our Washington-based employee-owners are Idaho residents. They would pay the tax, but not ever benefit from it. Unlike participants in a true, private insurance program, these employees will have their monthly premiums collected, then distributed by the state to others.
That’s not insurance. That’s market distortion and picking winners and losers.
Many have concluded this “payroll tax” is an income tax, prohibited by the Washington State Constitution.
Unlike an insurance premium, the amount collected is unrelated to the benefit received. The “benefit” is fixed, but “premium” varies with income.
Even legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle realized that this program would be hugely unpopular, so they amended the law with a one-time “opt-out” provision, allowing an employee just one chance to opt out before Nov. 1—provided an employee can attest to having purchased state-approved insurance. Once that date passes, workers will be locked into Washington’s long-term care program for the rest of their lives.
Right now, we’ve got many people scrambling to opt out, which means they’re looking for insurance that they hope qualifies for a state exemption—insurance many don’t want or need.
I said “hope” because the criteria are not available and won’t be until the beginning of the opt-out period.
This law must be stopped before hard-working individuals and families see their wages cut by the hand of the state in a rushed way and against the wishes of voters across the state.
Edmund O. Schweitzer III is the founder, president, and chief technology officer at Pullman, Washington-based Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc.
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