Serving Colorado's Counties

Under the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act, applicable large employers, those with more than 50 employees, must offer affordable health coverage. The IRS uses a formula to help determine what constitutes affordable coverage. This formula uses an annually adjusted percentage rate to measure whether a full-time employee’s contribution for a self-only health plan is less than a set percentage of their household income. For 2022, that percentage is 9.61; this is down 0.22% from the 2021 percentage. The 2022 affordability threshold was announced in Revenue Procedure 2021-36 published on August 30, 2021.

Determining Affordability

Because it would be difficult to determine affordability based on each individual’s household income, the rule offers three different affordability safe harbors on which employers can base employee-paid contributions: (1) the employee’s Form W-2; (2) the employee’s rate of pay; and (3) the federal poverty guidelines for a single individual. Use of the safe harbors is optional. If employers choose to use the safe harbors to set employee contributions, they can choose to apply them to all employees or any reasonable category of employees, such as administrative or full-time hourly employees.

Avoiding a Penalty

Because the affordability percentage decreases in 2022, the amount that a full-time employee can be asked to pay for self-only coverage that is still considered affordable will also go down. Therefore, employers may have to pay a bigger share of the premium. Failure to provide a plan that falls within the affordability rule and that also meets the minimum coverage criteria may incur the Employer Shared Responsibility penalty from the IRS.

Using the federal poverty line safe harbor, employer-offered plans that cost $103.14 per month for employee-only coverage meet the affordability threshold in 2022; the same plan could not cost more than 104.53 in 2021 to meet the threshold, a difference of $1.39 per month.

What This Means for Counties

A 0.22% decrease is fairly insignificant in terms of a dollar amount; however, counties may be subject to a significant IRS penalty if this decrease places employee-paid contributions over the affordability threshold. Verify that employee contributions are within the threshold and adjust the employer contribution if necessary. Remember that the affordability coverage rule applies only to full-time employees paying for a self-only plan. For more information or if you have questions about the affordability percentage, contact CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

The first baby boomers reached retirement age in 2008, and every year more and more leave the workforce, taking their knowledge and experience with them. Holding on to that knowledge and passing it on to the next generation is a challenge many industries face.

Institutional knowledge often rests with experienced, senior employees who learned best practices firsthand or from more experienced employees who have since moved on. While you cannot keep employees from retiring, you can take steps to lessen the impact and ensure that their knowledge and expertise are passed on. Below are some tips to help your organization keep its institutional knowledge intact.

Avoid Silos

Long-term employees often have a broader understanding of how their job impacts other departments and tasks. To avoid information silos, have more experienced employees share their knowledge in routine meetings or by documenting the processes and procedures in their roles.

Cross-train Employees

Another way to mitigate knowledge loss is to cross-train employees. Have a newer employee spend three to six months working in another department, allowing them to gain hands-on experience in a new area and help avoid creating information silos. Be sure that all employees know that the cross-training is meant to build organizational knowledge across departments and should not be viewed as an attempt to push senior employees into retirement sooner than they are ready.

Consider Alternatives to Full Retirement

While some employees are eager to retire, others may be interested in working part-time or staying on as an as-needed consultant. These sorts of arrangements can help lessen the disruption caused when a long-term employee retires.

Plan Succession Across all Departments

Create a succession plan that accounts for each position’s roles and responsibilities. As you hire new employees, make sure they have the skill sets needed to step into those roles.

Manage Across Generations

Older employees need to know that part of their job is to train newer employees, and newer employees need to know that being trained by more experienced employees is a vital part of their jobs. Facilitate cross-generational learning by reminding employees to be open to different perspectives and work styles.

Make Annual Assessments

Conduct an annual retirement assessment. Pay special attention to groups of employees in the same departments who are nearing retirement age at the same time. Be sure that you have people ready to step into these roles as they open up to avoid being understaffed. 

Do Not Wait Until They Retire

Have soon-to-retire employees mentor, job share, or be shadowed by younger employees well before the retiring employee’s last day. Ask them to document processes critical to their job, including details such as where files are kept.

What This Means for Counties

As the American workforce ages and more workers head into retirement, they take years of knowledge and experience with them. Take proactive steps to record and pass on that knowledge before it is lost. For questions about preserving institutional knowledge, contact CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

An AED (automated external defibrillator) is a medical device that helps people in cardiac arrest by analyzing their heart rhythm, and if necessary, by delivering defibrillation (e.g., electric shock) to help their heart resume a normal rhythm. According to the American Red Cross, more than 350,000 people will suffer from cardiac arrest this year, and response times by first responders once 911 is called averages between 8-12 minutes. Every minute counts during a cardiac event where the odds of survival decrease by 10% for every minute defibrillation is delayed. Because of this, AED’s have become common in many workplaces.

The state of Colorado has the following statute pertaining to AEDs: 

Colorado Revised Statute § 13-21-108.1, SB 09-010 Persons rendering emergency assistance through the use of automated external defibrillators - limited immunity

(1) The general assembly hereby declares that it is the intent of the general assembly to encourage the use of automated external defibrillators for the purpose of saving the lives of people in cardiac arrest.

(3) (a) In order to ensure public health and safety, a person or entity who acquires an AED shall ensure that:

(I) Expected AED users receive training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and AED use through a course that meets nationally recognized standards and is approved by the department of public health and environment;

(II) The defibrillator is maintained and tested according to the manufacturer’s operational guidelines and that written records are maintained of this maintenance and testing;

(IV) Written plans are in place concerning the placement of AEDs, training of personnel, pre-planned coordination with the emergency medical services system, medical oversight, AED maintenance, identification of personnel authorized to use AEDs, and reporting of AED utilization, which written plans have been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician; and

(V) Any person who renders emergency care or treatment to a person in cardiac arrest by using an AED activates the emergency medical services system as soon as possible.

(b) Any person or entity that acquires an AED shall notify an agent of the applicable emergency communications or vehicle dispatch center of the existence, location, and type of AED.

Colorado law provides civil protection for people who use an AED in an emergency:

(4) (a) Any person or entity whose primary duties do not include the provision of health care and who, in good faith and without compensation, renders emergency care or treatment by the use of an AED shall not be liable for any civil damages for acts or omissions made in good faith as a result of such care or treatment or as a result of any act or failure to act in providing or arranging further medical treatment, unless the acts or omissions were grossly negligent or willful and wanton.

What This Means for Counties

Having an AED in county facilities can save a life; however, counties must be sure that they follow Colorado statutes about AED maintenance, training, and usage. For more information on AEDs, contact CTSI at 303 861 0507. 

Your insurance contributions for the Colorado Counties Casualty Pool (CAPP) and the County Workers Compensation Pool (CWCP) are based on your county’s exposure and a loss-sensitive component.

What is Meant by Exposure?

For CAPP, each county’s exposure comprises property (buildings, contents, and mobile equipment), revenue, vehicles, and miles of road. A rate is assigned to each of these items. For 2021, those rates are: property at .37 per $100; vehicles at $450 each; revenue at .98 per $100; and miles of road at $16 each. Those values totaled equal the county’s total CAPP exposure or base contribution.

For CWCP, exposure is made up of county payroll. Payroll is assigned to various classification codes, which have a rate per $100 of payroll assigned based on the frequency and severity of injuries for that job.  For example, clerical might have a rate of .18, indicating a low-risk classification; whereas, the rate for street paving might be $8.20 reflecting the higher likelihood of an on-the-job injury.

The payroll times the rate per $100 equals the county’s total CWCP exposure (base contribution) or Manual Premium as it is called in insurance the industry.

Loss Sensitive Component

For both CAPP and CWCP, three years of a county’s exposure and loss information is used to determine a loss rate. Three years of loss data is used so that one bad year within the three doesn’t carry such a heavy impact.

A loss rate under 1.0 is good; over 1.0 means that the county has had losses greater than it should have for its level of exposure.

To find the county’s loss rate, we calculate the county’s % of total loss and % of total exposure for the three-year period. That % of loss is divided by that % of exposure to compute the loss rate.

For example, if a county has 1% of total loss and 2% of total exposure, it has a very good .5 loss rate. Conversely, if a county has 3% of total loss and 2% of total exposure, it has a high 1.5 loss rate.

Why it Matters

The loss rate is compared to a table that gives the county a credit or debit toward their base contribution.  In CWCP, for a loss rate under 1.0, a county could get up to an 8% discount. For those over 1.0, the county could get up to a 7% increase. CAPP provides similar credits and debits.

What this Mean to Counties

Whenever you have an opportunity to control your county’s losses, take advantage of it. Whether it be through safety education, modified duty programs for injured workers, defensive driving classes, financial audits, good employment practices, proper inmate procedures, etc., you can help control your loss costs and in turn lessen your contributions. For more information on loss control practices, contact CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA), along with guidance from the IRS, relaxed or expanded rules governing Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and health plan elections for plans that ended in 2020 and 2021. Many of these expanded rules are temporary and will not apply to plans that end after 2021. Employers who adopted these expanded rules will need to revert to pre-pandemic rules for upcoming plan years.

Health Plan Enrollment

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Usually, employees can only enroll or make changes to their employer-sponsored health plans during open enrollment or if they have a change in status (e.g., marriage, divorce, loss of coverage, having or adopting a child, etc.). The IRS relaxed these rules for plans that end in 2021. Employers could permit employees to enroll, change, or drop (only if covered by another plan) health insurance plans. Regular pre-pandemic rules will go back into effect for plans ending in 2022 or later.

Flexible Spending Accounts

The IRS also allowed employers to adopt changes to FSA enrollment and election rules, grace periods, and carryover amounts. Plan years ending in 2020 and 2021 allowed employees to enroll, increase or decrease the annual election amount, or end their plan without a change in status. Employers were also allowed to extend the grace period for using FSA funds up to 12 months after the plan year ended. For 2022 plans, the grace period reverts back to 2 months and 15 days. The standard $550 carryover amount will also go back into effect for plans that allow a carryover. FSA accounts can allow a grace period or a carryover, but not both.

Dependent Care Assistance Plans

Dependent Care Assistance Plans (DCAPs) had similar changes to enrollment and election and grace periods as FSAs. The maximum tax-exempt election amount was increased from $5,000 to $10,500 for plans ending in 2021. One notable difference for DCAP plans ending in 2020 and 2021 is the addition of a carryout provision. Employers are permitted to allow any amount, up to the account balance, to be carried over. The carryover provision will not be available going forward, and the grace period will revert to 2 months and 15 days.

What This Means for Counties

For county members who are part of the County Health Pool (CHP), no additional action will be needed for their health plans. CHP will adjust election and coverage rules as needed. Non-CHP members should review their health plans and revise election and contribution limits to pre-pandemic levels. For more information on how the CAA altered plan rules, read Additional Relief for Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Under §125 Cafeteria Plans Notice 2021-15 at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-21-15.pdf. For more information about CHP, contact CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

For over 30 years, CTSI and your pools have successfully navigated each year’s challenges and consistently provided comprehensive services to pool members. In an effort to protect all members and minimize the potential for financial surprises late in the year, the CTSI Board would like to remind the members of all the Pools (CAPP, CWCP, and CHP) of their commitment to remain a member in good standing throughout the policy year. In the event a member of any of the Pools is considering their option to withdraw from membership, each Pool’s bylaws provide that they must give notice of intent to withdraw, for each Pool concerned, before October 1st of the year preceding the new policy year that begins on January 1st.

Notice of Intent to Withdraw

This notice of intent to withdraw is a requirement to leave the respective Pool. Submission of a withdrawal notice affects budgeting options for the pool for the upcoming year but is non-binding on the member and can be rescinded at any time up to the start of the new policy year. If the notice of intent to withdraw is rescinded, the member will automatically retain membership in good standing for the following policy year.

This requirement allows the Pools to give adequate notice to carriers from whom the Pools will purchase stop-loss, excess, and reinsurance coverage and give timely statutory notifications to the Division of Insurance. Moreover, this furthers CTSI’s ability to protect members who do not intend to consider withdrawing and to make timely adjustments to the budget in the event the member decides to follow through with their withdrawal from membership.

Failure to provide notice as required by each Pool’s bylaws may result in the loss of protections afforded to withdrawing members, including potential claim runouts and equity distributions or benefits.

CTSI Building in Denver

The Pools have proven their worth to the membership throughout their existence for insurance and associated services and still offer the best long-term solutions for members’ needs. This notice requirement is an expression of each member’s commitment to every other member to preserve the special benefits of local government risk pooling now and for the future.

What This Means for Counties

Members cannot withdraw from membership in any of the Pools during a policy year and must give proper notice by October 1st if they are considering withdrawal from membership for the upcoming policy year. Compliance with this requirement preserves all of their rights as a withdrawn member if they choose to follow through with their withdrawal. Failure to give notice as required could impact their future interests in claim runouts, distributions of equity, etc. A copy of all Pools’ Bylaws can be found in the Members Only section on our website at www.ctsi.org For more information, contact CTSI at (303) 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has confirmed plague (Yersinia pestis) in animals and fleas from six counties after the death of a 10-year-old boy in LaPlata County. Plague is a zoonotic disease, which means it can pass from animals to humans. The Yersinia pestis bacteria is usually found in fleas and small mammals such as prairie dogs, squirrels, woodrats, and chipmunks. Pets can also carry plague-infested fleas.

Symptoms of Plague

Plague cases are rare in humans and can be treated if caught early, so it is vital to know the symptoms and seek treatment if plague is suspected. Plague symptoms depend on the clinical form: bubonic, pneumonic, or septicemic (https://www.cdc.gov/plague/symptoms/index.html).

Bubonic – sudden fever, headache, chills, weakness, and swollen tender lymph nodes

Septicemic – fever, chills, extreme weakness, abdominal pain, shock, and possibly bleeding into the skin and other organs; skin and other tissues (e.g., fingers, toes, nose, etc.) may turn black and die

Pneumonic – fever, headache, weakness, and rapidly developing pneumonia with shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, and sometimes bloody or watery mucous

Control Exposure Risks

Animal-borne diseases can be contracted year-round but tend to increase in summer when people are more likely to come into contact with animals. The CDPHE recommends Coloradans take the following precautions (https://cdphe.colorado.gov/press-release/plague-activity-identified-in-colorado):

What This Means for Counties

Coloradans should take steps to avoid coming in contact with fleas and small mammals that often carry Yersinia pestis. Know the symptoms of the plague and seek medical attention if they appear. For more information, consult the CDPHE or the CDC.

A PDF of this Techncial Update is available here.

During the 2018 legislative session, the state of Colorado amended Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann § 6-1-716 (2006), to include governmental entities. The statute concerns how a person’s information (e.g., social security number, passport ID, medical information, password, username, email address, etc.) is stored, disposed of, and in the case of a data breach, how they are notified about the breach. The law went into effect on September 1, 2018.

The amended statute defines a governmental entity as: any state agency or institution, including the judicial department, county, city and county, incorporated city or town, school district, special improvement district, authority, and every other kind of district, instrumentality, or political subdivision of the state organized pursuant to law. Article 73, Section 24-73-101-(4)(a)”..

Written Policy Required

The amended statute requires that a governmental entity that keeps paper or electronic documents containing personal identifying information develop a written policy for the destruction or proper disposal of those documents after the information is no longer needed. Furthermore, counties must take “reasonable security procedures and practices that are appropriate to the nature of the personal identifying information and the nature and size of the business and its operations.” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 6-1-713.5(1). 

Expanded Breach Notification

When a county becomes aware that a breach of unencrypted computerized data has occurred, it must inform the affected parties within 30 days. Counties may delay the notification if law enforcement investigating the breach deems a delay necessary for their investigation; however, counties must inform affected parties in the most expedient time possible without unreasonable delay once cleared to do so by law enforcement. Third-party service providers used by the county must be informed that their cooperation with the county and law enforcement is required in the case of a data breach.

Attorney General & Consumer Reporting
Notification

For data breaches that compromise the personal data of more than 500 Colorado citizens, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office must be notified no later than 30 days after the date the breach was discovered. For data breaches affecting more than 1000 Colorado residents, the governmental entity must also notify all nationwide consumer reporting agencies. Furthermore, any waivers of notification rights or responsibilities that residents may have signed before the amended legislation are void as they are now against public policy.

What This Means for Counties

Counties should ensure that they have a written policy detailing the safe disposal of electronic and paper records containing personal identifying information and ensure that they are taking reasonable security precautions to protect that information and comply with the notification requirement. For more information or for a sample policy, please contact CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. Smoke can cause:

If you have heart or lung disease, smoke might make your symptoms worse. People with heart disease might experience chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and/or fatigue.

Smoke may worsen symptoms for people who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as respiratory allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in the following ways: inability to breathe normally, cough with or without mucus, chest discomfort, and/or wheezing and shortness of breath. When smoke levels are high enough, even healthy people may experience some symptoms.

Know Whether you are at Risk

If you have heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, COPD, emphysema, or asthma, you are at higher risk of having health problems than healthy people. Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, possibly because they are more likely to have heart or lung diseases than younger people. Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke because their airways are still developing and because they breathe more air per pound of bodyweight than adults. Children also are more likely to be active outdoors.

Limit Your Exposure to Smoke

If you are advised to stay indoors, keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed unless it is extremely hot outside. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere.

Do not add to indoor pollution. When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Do not vacuum because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.

Follow your doctor’s advice about medicines and your respiratory management plan. If you have asthma or another lung disease, call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.

Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from smoke. An “N95” mask, properly worn, will offer some protection. For more information about effective masks, see the Respirator Fact Sheet provided by CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2003-144/.

What This Means for Counties

For more information, contact the CTSI Loss Control team at (303) 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) issued Interpretive Notice and Formal Opinion #9, offering additional guidance on the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (EPEWA). The EPEWA requires men and women to be paid the same for substantially similar work, requires employers to list salary ranges and benefits in job postings, and give employees notice of promotional opportunities on the same day. The EPEWA went into effect on January 1, 2021. The EPEWA is discussed further in Technical Update vol. 25 no 1 – Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act is in Effect.  

Compensation and Benefits to Disclose

Opinion #9 went over the benefits employers must include in a job posting per the EPEWA. Postings should list health, retirement, paid time off, and any other tax-reportable benefits. Details of health coverage premiums or coverage specifics such as out-of-pocket deductibles need not be given. Employee perks, such as an on-site gym or employee discounts, need not be listed in the posting. The rate or range of compensation, including salary and hourly, piece or day rate compensation, is required. Any bonuses, commissions, or other compensation must also be included in the posting.

Exceptions and Limitations

Employers may hire without having a job posting; however, they must post promotional opportunities for existing employees. The EPEWA posting requirement only applies if the employer chooses to post the job. For electronic postings (e.g., webpages, emails, etc.), employers may include hyperlinks or URLs to the required compensation and benefit information. All links must clearly indicate that they lead to information about salary and benefits. Also, the employer is responsible for ensuring that the links remain functional and the information up-to-date.

Jobs performed entirely outside of Colorado are excluded from the EPEWA even if the job posting is viewable in Colorado. This includes non-Colorado jobs that include modest travel to the state. Remote jobs by a covered employer, meaning any employer with a Colorado employee, are not considered out of state and are not excluded.

Likewise, job postings entirely outside of Colorado are also excluded. For example, a print posting in another state does not need to list compensation and benefits; however, an online version of the same posting accessible to Colorado residents must follow EPEWA guidelines.   

What This Means for Counties

Counties should review their job postings to ensure that they comply with the EPEWA. For more detailed information on the new EPEWA guidance, consult Opinion #9. The EPEWA brings numerous changes to how job postings and promotional opportunities are listed. Counties should consult their county attorneys and HR departments for additional details. For more information, contact CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.