Health Secretary Elizabeth Roberts’ future in doubt

Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo’s administration is refusing to say whether Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts is on her way out.

David Ortiz, a spokesman for Raimondo, told Eyewitness News on Monday morning he had no comment about Roberts’ future, and he declined to answer questions about whether she plans to resign or whether the governor still has confidence in her.

Roberts, a Democrat who served as Rhode Island lieutenant governor from 2007 to 2015, was an early supporter of Raimondo’s bid for governor and has served in the powerful health secretary’s job since the governor took office two years ago.

Roberts could not immediately be reached for comment.

Roberts is widely acknowledged as an expert in health policy dating back to her days as a state senator. However, she has come under fire in recent months over the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP), the $364-million new computer system for benefits that’s been plagued by problems since it launched in September.

UHIP has already triggered the resignations of two top state officials, Department of Human Services Director Melba Depena Affigne and Chief Digital Officer Thomas Guertin. Last month Raimondo asked Eric Beane, her chief operating officer, to temporarily take charge of the project and do an assessment of where things stand, which is expected soon.

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