PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The backlog of pending applications for benefits in Rhode Island’s troubled new Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) system appears to be about half of what state officials thought it was, according to data released Friday.
As Target 12 reported Wednesday, data provided by the R.I. Department of Human Services to the General Assembly showed a backlog of nearly 28,000 cases. But new data released Friday afternoon shows the number of pending applications is actually fewer than 14,000.
Acting DHS Director Eric Beane attributed the discrepancy to various data problems in the bug-plagued system.
“If somebody applied for two programs but already was receiving benefits under one, that was still being reported as two for backlog purposes,” Beane said. “We were seeing a lot of duplicates. We were seeing a lot of changes to existing applications where people would already be getting benefits that were reported as new.”
According to DHS, there are currently 13,630 pending UHIP applications. More than 8,800 are overdue, and of the overdue applications, about 2,800 require extra information from clients.
With these new numbers, Target 12 asked Beane when the backlog will disipate.
“The goal is September,” he said. “There’s always going to be a number of pending applications. The important thing is whether we’re processing them in a timely manner.”
“This is not just a number to us,” he added. “We know child care assistance is often the difference between going back to work or not, and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is the difference between feeding a family or not. We’re not going to stop. We’re not going to slow down. Our foot is on the gas pedal until we get down to a number where there aren’t overdue applications.”
But Beane admits there are still significant challenges.
“The governor and I have a lot of tough conversations with Deloitte because the system still isn’t stable,” Beane said.
Deloitte built the $364-million benefits eligibility computer system, whose troubled launch in September has affected benefits and health care for tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders.
In January, Gov. Gina Raimondo halted all payments to the company, and in February she publicly apologized for launching the system when it wasn’t ready.
“We want to see meaningful progress that’s actually measurable,” Beane said. “I will acknowledge that they have deployed more staff and they’re working very hard, but we’re not satisfied yet.”