On February 14th, our founder, Robert Weink, joined other advocates at the state capitol building to testify in support of Assembly Bill 596, a bill intended to provide a long-term care savings plan to Wisconsinites that does not require employment or a certain level of income to open. Authored by Wisconsin Aging Advocacy Network (WAAN) member Ingrid Thompson, inspired by Wisconsin’s Edvest College Savings Plan program, this bill brings crucial awareness to the issue of paying for long-term care.
Unlike other savings plans, AB 596 would not require users to be employed or maintain a certain level of income to participate, instead allowing anyone to open an account and put up to $5,500 (or $8,500 if the account is held by someone over the age of 50) per year. It also allows authorized family members or friends to contribute, all tax-exempt. The only time taxes come into play is when the account holder dies; the beneficiaries then can decide to use the funds in the account to pay for funeral expenses and unpaid medical expenses, and then either transferred to a new account or cashed out, with the cash amount taxed at a currently undecided rate.
If anyone doubts the importance of a long-term care savings plan, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are currently 44 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. alone, the majority of them women, and there are almost no programs available to help them save for their own future care needs. That’s not even mentioning the astronomical out-of-pocket costs of medical expenses that aren’t covered by insurance or Medicare, and the reality for almost all of us is that, as we age, we develop more health issues.
The strain on taxpayers will also become more evident, as more of these costs are put off onto Medicare and other government health programs that will have to carry the weight of eldercare as the population of people over 65 nearly doubles over the next decade. If people aren’t thinking about saving for care now, and if they don’t have the opportunity to do so due to income or employment barriers, a savings plan like this could reduce the financial burden on themselves and the general public in the future.