The silver tsunami is coming – Family and Medical Leave Insurance can help us prepare

Gov. Jay Inslee

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at the 2013 Summit on Aging. Photo via @GovInslee

Last week, Governor Inslee hosted the first-ever Leadership Summit on Aging. Initiated by AARP Washington, the goals of the summit are to address the upcoming “silver tsunami”- when many baby boomers are set to retire. However, hopes are to address concerns beyond just retirement, and have the conversation expanded to all aspects of ageing.

“We want to perfect ideas on how we can improve access to living situations. We want to help make sure people are getting good health care. We want to deal with these financial planning issues – and we’re looking for ideas on how to help,” Inslee said.

Joined by policymakers, experts and opinion leaders on aging, their one-day summit focused on these three framing points:

  • Focus on the age wave on the horizon.
  • Identify key risks and opportunities for Washington State.
  • Explore strategic actions the state can take to reduce pressure on future state budgets and create a more age friendly environment.

Ideas discussed during the summit will be followed up with the new Joint Legislative-Executive Committee on Ageing and Disability for the 2013-2015 biennium. Comprised of representatives from the House, Senate, and executive branch including the Secretary of DSHS, Director of the Health Care Authority and Director of Department of Retirement Systems, the goals of the new committee are outlined as:

  1. Establishing a profile of Washington’s older population and population with disabilities and a projection of those populations through 2030;
  2. Establishing an inventory of services and supports from health care and long-term services and supports;
  3. Identifying budget and policy options to effectively use public resources to reduce the growth rate in state expenditures compared to current policies;
  4. Identifying strategies to better serve the health care needs of the aging population and people with disabilities and promote healthy living;
  5. Identifying options for financing mechanisms for long-term care services and supports to promote additional private responsibility to meet needs for services.
  6. Identifying options to promote financial security in retirement, support people staying in the workforce, and expand the availability of workplace retirement savings plans; and
  7. Identifying options to help communities adapt to the aging demographic in planning for housing, land use, and transportation.

Here at EOI, we have our own recommendation. Start with implementing, expanding and funding Washington’s Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FMLI) passed in 2007 but has had implantation delayed twice until 2015.  Currently, the FMLI program provides up to 5 weeks of partial pay to employees who need to take care of an aging parent or newborn.

To truly be a family friendly policy, FMLI needs to be expanded up to 12 weeks with 2/3 of weekly pay, up to $1,000 a week. Employees need the flexibility to respond to the myriad of medical and care-giving needs that aging populations face – without worrying about the stability of their job or paycheck.

Let’s keep pushing as we head into the upcoming legislative session for policies that reflect the full spectrum of today’s modern family needs. Washington state needs workplace policies that support all of our loved ones, no matter their age.

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