Feds want more details from RI on UHIP fixes

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Federal food-stamp officials say they need more information before they can approve the Raimondo administration’s plan to improve the state’s problem-plagued new computer system for benefits.

In November, the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) ordered Rhode Island officials to submit a corrective-action plan after issues with the $364-million Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) system led to seriously delays in processing applications for food stamps, among other programs. The state submitted its plan Nov. 22.

On Monday, however, FNS regional administrator Kurt Messner said he needed a significant amount of additional information before he could approve the plan, and asked for a fleshed-out response by Jan. 19.

“Our team will continue to work closely with FNS to revise and address all of the questions and concerns that remain regarding our [plan],” R.I. Department of Administration spokeswoman Brenna McCabe said in an email.

More than 2,000 applications for food stamps, some dating back to UHIP’s launch in September, were pending in Rhode Island as of last week, documents show. About 500 of those were being held up because applicants needed to provide more documentation.

The state received a separate request for more information about UHIP’s problems from another one of the federal agencies involved, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, earlier this month. The state’s response to that letter is due by early February.

State Rep. Patricia Morgan, R-West Warwick, and Rep.-elect Robert Quattrocchi, R-Scituate, said they visited a Department of Human Services office in Providence on Tuesday and offered a mixed review of what they saw.

“Clearly there has been some progress,” Morgan said in a statement. “The lobby has been better organized and applicants are triaged to help speed their experience. As employees have become more familiar with the system, they have required less support from Deloitte technical personnel.”

“But,” she continued, “after three months in operation, the level of observable dysfunction is disheartening.”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram