RI officials face questioning as UHIP troubles continue

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s troubled online benefits system was at the center of another hearing at the State House Monday afternoon.

At a joint hearing of the House Oversight and Finance Committees, leaders from the Department of Health and Human Services told lawmakers that things are getting better but acknowledged there’s more work to be done.

As it stands, the state says there are about 12,000 pending benefits applications in the system.

In addition, there are about 1,600 defects that still need to be fixed. Last week, the customer portal was shut down after state officials said a glitch may have exposed the personal information of hundreds of users.

“The new system is not where we want it to be,” said Dept. of Administration Director Michael DiBiase.

“No one here believes the customer experience right now is optimal,” DiBiase continued. “People have been waiting too long at the DHS field offices, too many Rhode Islanders are still experiencing challenges with the new system, and we understand and recognize the frustrations that our providers and our employees are having.”

Despite the ongoing troubles, DiBiase said he and his colleagues “firmly believe that the system will ultimately be the right choice.”

Lawmakers on Monday asked several questions about Deloitte, the company behind the $364 million United Health Infrastructure Project, or UHIP.

Rep. Mike Chippendale called the company’s work flawed and failed.

“I believe they’re practicing programming malpractice with the state of Rhode Island,” he said during the hearing. “I’d fire them if they worked for me. They’re just grossly negligent.”

Chippendale requested that a representative from Deloitte be present at the next hearing on the matter.

It was also learned at the hearing that overtime for DHS workers is costing the state $25,000 per week. DHS Director Melba Depena said the agency is still within its $1.8 million overtime budget.