State chipping away at UHIP backlog numbers

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As benefits applications come in to the United Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) and get approved by the Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS), the number of backlogged applications is fluctuating — and they’re trying to chip away at the backlog, day by day.

Monday, the DHS gave Eyewitness News numbers for Friday. 417 applications were submitted that day (down 234 from Thursday), and 284 applications were approved (down 32 compared to Thursday). As of the close of business that day, the backlogged applications totaled 8,499, up 133 from the 8,031 number the day before.

The department said call volume was the lowest it’s been since the new UHIP system had launched, and the average call wait time went down to 35 minutes. It had averaged 80 minutes during the first week of October. The call center had reactivated a “call back” system to reduce the amount of time callers were waiting on hold.

Residents have been criticizing UHIP delays, with thousands left to fend without benefit payments. Officials say the UHIP is working for most. But the problems that have arisen include SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, state Supplemental Security Income (SSI) transfers, child-care payments, electronic benefits transfer card operations, Medicaid enrollment, and HealthSource RI insurance accounts.

The department is now trying to get ready for November 1 — a week from now — the first business day of the month, when the system has to process so many of those payments and transfers. November 1 is also the first day of the open enrollment period for HealthSource RI, which is expected to increase call volume and web traffic. They’re preparing contingency plans in the event new issues emerge.

Governor Gina Raimondo praised the system last week in an exclusive interview with Target 12 Consumer Investigator Susan Campbell, though she admitted mistakes were made, including with communication.