What Senate Bill 24-089 Means for Colorado Fire Operations

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What Senate Bill 24-089 Means for Colorado Fire Operations

Senate Bill 24-089 (SB24-089), effective upon Governor Polis’ signature on May 24, 2024, has changed the way public employers of full-time firefighters must provide heart and circulatory benefits for their employees under state law.

We hope that this summary will help explain SB24-089 and provide next steps in how to work with the Colorado Firefighter Heart, Cancer, and Behavioral Health Benefits Trust to administer a program for the firefighters in your agency.

Firefighter Heart Benefits – Prior to SB24-089

In 2014, state statutes were passed to require public agencies employing full-time firefighters to provide benefits for heart and circulatory malfunctions through self-insurance, commercial insurance, self-insurance risk pooling, or by participation in a multiple-employer health benefit trust (such as the Colorado Firefighter Heart, Cancer, and Behavioral Health Benefits Trust). The state reimbursed these agencies for the cost of benefits for full-time firefighters (but not part-time or volunteer firefighters).

How Did SB24-089 Change Firefighter Heart Benefits?

SB24-089 (which took effect on May 24, 2024) limited the method by which a public agency may provide these statutorily required cardiac benefits to full-time firefighters.

Going forward, unless a public agency has met the limited conditions to continue to self-insure the program, these cardiac and circulatory benefits must be provided through the Colorado Firefighter Heart, Cancer, and Behavioral Health Benefits Trust.

What is the Colorado Firefighter Trust?

The Colorado Firefighter Heart, Cancer, and Behavioral Health Benefits Trust (the “Colorado Firefighter Trust”) was created to address the costs to the employers, and the serious health conditions and complications for their employees, from cardiac stressors in the fire services. The Colorado Firefighter Trust meets these goals by providing mandated cardiac and voluntary cancer benefits to eligible public employers and individuals in the fire service, as required by statute, as well as providing health screenings and safety grants to proactively address and prevent health complications.

The Colorado Firefighter Trust’s Heart Program was designed with input from numerous stakeholders, including Colorado Professional Fire Fighters, Colorado State Fire Chiefs, and Colorado Division of Insurance, as well as individuals from municipal, county, and special district fire agencies.

What does this mean for me?

For employees: the firefighter heart benefit program laws were put in place to eliminate the red tape and out-of-pocket expenses associated with heart and circulatory care experienced under Workers’ Compensation, which made it difficult to access the healthcare benefits firefighters had earned. SB24-089 did not reduce or change the statutorily-mandated benefits for eligible full-time firefighters and it did not limit the ability of a public agency to voluntarily work with the Colorado Firefighter Trust to provide benefits to part-time and volunteer firefighters.

For employers who are not already a part of the Trust: unless your public agency falls under the limited exception in SB24-089 to self-insure, SB24-089 may reasonably be interpreted to require your participation in the Colorado Firefighter Trust for the mandated benefits for your full-time firefighters.

We are currently working on our implementation plan to onboard statutorily-eligible public agencies as new Colorado Firefighter Trust members as seamlessly as possible. Your governing body will need to join the Colorado Firefighter Trust as a Member by approving a resolution (or similar official action) to join, as it may have done for other intergovernmental agreements similar to the Trust Agreement. A copy of the Colorado Firefighter Trust Agreement, and a template resolution, are available on our “Documents” webpage. Over the next few months, we will continue communicating where we are at in this process. We know you will have many questions. Please direct them to cfhtrust@mcgriff.com.

The changes from SB24-089 which are discussed above only affect your statutory obligation to provide the firefighter heart benefit program to full-time firefighters.

Please note that House Bill 24-1219 also relates to firefighter heart and cancer statutory benefits by providing additional state funding for part-time and volunteer firefighters of public agencies over five (5) years. More information on the implementation of this separate legislation will be provided in the fall.

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