As another advocacy tool, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy employs strategic litigation to protect and enhance the rights of Coloradans, particularly lower-income individuals and families.
During the mid-1990s Congress imposed significant restrictions on the activities of federally funded legal services programs. Some of the most problematic of these restrictions prevented civil legal aid programs, such as Colorado Legal Services, from engaging in legislative or administrative advocacy, including class-action litigation challenging the validity of welfare reform laws and regulations. Shortly after imposing these restrictions, Congress initiated sweeping reforms of the welfare system, allowing states to design their own welfare programs. Colorado’s legal aid community created CCLP to serve as Colorado’s unrestricted legal services program to protect justice for the poor in Colorado despite Congressional restrictions.
Details about the major cases CCLP has worked on are available below, including the proposed Exempla hospital sale and the Colorado Benefits Management System. Older cases include the Blue Cross Blue Shield Conversion, Soskin v. Reinertson, and Weston V. Hammons, the welfare notice case.
In 2004, CCLP successfully challenged the failed implementation of the Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS). CBMS manages eligibility determinations for virtually all public benefits in Colorado, including Medicaid, CHP+, SNAP and TANF. CCLP continues to monitor timely processing of benefits applications through ongoing settlement agreements with the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and the Colorado Department of Human Services.
Three Denver-area hospitals that collectively serve hundreds of thousands of people are operating under rules that preclude a range of widely accepted medical procedures. The procedures, such as contraception and honoring patients’ end-of-life orders, are banned or put into question under a document called Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In summer 2010, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in entered into an agreement with Exampla whereby Exampla is required to disclose that some procedures are not available in its hospitals. The Colorado Center on Law and Policy regards the disclosures as insufficient and is continuing to assess means to accomplish full disclosure or alternative remedies.
CCLP helped organize litigation that delayed implementation of a law that would have terminated Medicaid eligibility for lawfully present immigrants in 2003. Many of the immigrants facing termination of their benefits were frail, elderly Russian Jews who had fled persecution. CCLP’s action was able to delay implementation until funds were secured through the passage of the tobacco tax (Amendment 35) to restore benefits. As a result, no immigrants lost services.
In 2000, CCLP helped to secure a major victory in Weston v. Hammons, regarding the rights of TANF applicants and recipients to receive due process in the form of adequate notices when their benefits are denied, reduced, or terminated. The case was one of first impression and received national attention because it raised the issue of whether welfare benefits are considered an entitlement under what was then, a new welfare program. The Court ruled that if participants are entitled to welfare benefits, then they are also entitled to due process of law when the state seeks to reduce or cut off those benefits.
CCLP represented a coalition of stakeholders known as the Conversions Project in the administrative proceeding before the Division of Insurance regulating the conversion of Blue Cross Blue Shield from a not for profit to a for profit corporation. The Caring for Colorado Foundation was established in 1999 as a result of the conversion.