Raimondo team to release ‘significantly lower’ estimate of UHIP backlog

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo’s aides plan to release a new estimate of the Unified Health Infrastructure Project case backlog on Friday that they say will be more accurate – and significantly lower – than those released in the past.

Eric Beane, the top aide tasked by Raimondo with turning around the troubled computer system for government benefits, said state workers and officials from Deloitte, the company building UHIP, are almost done weeding through the numbers to remove duplicates and other errors in the data he said are falsely inflating the number.

“The bottom line is that the actual backlog numbers that I think we’re going to be able to report tomorrow are significantly lower than what’s previously been reported,” Beane told Eyewitness News.

Beane’s comments came a day after Eyewitness News reported the official UHIP backlog estimate had grown to nearly 28,000, citing documents the administration provided to the General Assembly. Raimondo apologized last month for the $364-million system’s problems, which have affected tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders.

“The data that Deloitte had been providing us was neither accurate nor complete, and we’re still trying to get our arms around it,” Raimondo told Eyewitness News on Thursday. “In my meetings with the team over the weekend I had been advised that the backlog at this point in time was no longer going up, and so that is what I’m going with.”

Raimondo, a Democrat, said she visited a Department of Human Services office last weekend to check in on the UHIP turnaround. “I asked the team how we’re doing and they said to me, we’re still not where we need to be but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “So I think that light is months away, but I think we’re seeing progress.”

“Why am I somewhat optimistic?” Raimondo said. “First, we’re approaching it with much more urgency than we ever have. We have more than 100 new people on staff. We worked all weekend – especially on the food stamp backlog. We are fixing mistakes in the system faster than we were in the past. There’s progress. There’s undeniable progress.”

Raimondo, a Democrat, said she and Deloitte’s CEO have a call every week – describing them as “not pleasant” – and the company sent 50 additional employees to work on UHIP this week, but the state continues to withhold payment to the company. “I’m still frustrated,” she said.

Beane said the new backlog estimate he expects to release Friday follows weeks of effort to sort through the existing data and determine the real state of the problem.

“We’ve had a number of people on our staff working with experts from Deloitte to test the data query, to check it against the agency’s own understanding of its own backlog and the program administrators’ understanding of their backlog, and we’ve been able to validate it on our end,” Beane said.

“So our experts at data have been able to duplicate what they’ve been able to do and have been able to confirm that the information that’s pulled, based on sampling, is accurate,” he said. A new dashboard to track UHIP’s performance will also be released soon, he said.

R.I. Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell sought to make political hay out of the UHIP mess on Thursday, calling on Raimondo to stop raising money for her 2018 re-election campaign until the backlog is eliminated.

“UHIP appears no closer to being fixed than it was a month ago when Governor Raimondo promised action,” Bell said in a statement. “Instead of traveling across the country to attend political fundraisers, Governor Raimondo should show she is actually serious about fixing UHIP.”

“Raimondo needs to take responsibility for the pain that the UHIP fiasco has caused and show Rhode Islanders she actually really cares about something other than her own self-promotion,” he added.

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

Susan Campbell contributed to this report.