PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The state of Rhode Island continues to catch up on its backlog of benefits applications and deal with various troubles with its new eligibility system, but the real test will come once November 1 rolls around.
The state’s Department of Health and Human Services said it’s prepared to deal with unexpected issues with HealthSource RI enrollment gets underway, but added that customers should still be prepared for longer lines and call wait times.
As it stands, an unknown number of Rhode Islanders can’t complete their benefits applications online. DHS leaders said the issues with UHIP’s customer portal seem to be affecting existing customers as they try to verify their personal data.
“We have a particularly tight portal to get in,” said Sec. of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Roberts. “We’re discovering that’s a problem for some of our customers. We’re fixing that, but we want to do it in just the right way so we don’t compromise anyone’s information.”
Customers being unable to make changes to their accounts is just one of the issues reported since the launch of the $364-million United Health Infrastructure Project, also known as UHIP.
Officials say UHIP is working for most, but problems have arisen with SNAP benefits, state Supplemental Security Income (SSI) transfers, child care payments, EBT card operations, and Medicaid enrollment.
While officials say call wait times are down and lines aren’t as long at DHS field offices, the backlog of pending applications has continued to grow. As of Friday, it was up to 9,266.
According to Roberts, the first of the month is always a busy time for her department with another round of monthly benefits due, but the open enrollment period beginning will pose added challenges.
The DHS announced last week it intended to create an emergency phone line for people who need immediate assistance, but that’s no longer the plan.
“What we’re asking people to do is call the call center and through that we’ll triage and it will go to the appropriate team to follow up,” said DHS Director Melba Depena.
Open enrollment for HealthSource RI begins Nov. 1 and goes through mid-December. HealthSource RI has added staff and customer hours to assist clients.