WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — A review of Rhode Island’s troubled benefits eligibility system revealed that thousands of applications are still in need of processing, with many being long overdue.
The month-long review was conducted by Eric Beane, Gov. Gina Raimondo’s chief operating officer. On Wednesday, he announced the governor’s administration made a mistake by prematurely launching the United Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) back in September.
The $364-million program was intended to consolidate all of the state’s benefits offerings. But since UHIP went live it’s been riddled with issues, ranging from delays in residents receiving benefits to system glitches and crashes.
More than 287,000 Rhode Islanders are on Medicaid. Currently sitting in limbo are an estimated 14,000 Medicaid verification tasks, which must be completed in order to start or end coverage. Of those 14,000, Beane’s review revealed 11,000 are likely at least 30 days overdue.
The new report states that more than 15,000 non-medical applications – including food stamps – have also yet to be determined, with just 70 to 75 percent being completed in their mandated time frames. Before UHIP, it took an average of six days to process an application, according to the report. Under the new system, it now takes 20 to 27 days.
The issues have created turmoil in the lives of Rhode Islanders who rely on a wide spectrum of public assistance, including SNAP benefits (food stamps), EBT cards, and state Supplemental Security Income (SSI) transfers.
“It was dire,” said Richard Vasques of Woonsocket. “It took eight days for them to get my food stamps back on.”
“How am I going to eat?” he asked. “And where am I going to get this food from?”
Vasques said he’s still waiting for hundreds of dollars in Medicaid payments. He feels he and others have been made to pay for a bureaucratic system gone terribly wrong.
“If you’re going to throw me on he craps table and ride it all on red and black comes out, now I suffer,” Vasques added. “But you still get to go home and you’re fine. My life is worth just as much as the next guy’s.”
Raimondo on Wednesday estimated it will take more than a year to make the system fully operational.