DHS: There’s a light at the end of the UHIP tunnel

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Lobby wait times at field offices for the R.I. Department of Human Services have leveled off, and the number of pending applications in the state’s UHIP computer system is going down, according to new data released by the state.

“Everybody has been really eager for these signs of progress and everybody is finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Acting DHS Director Eric Beane.

There are 11,638 pending applications in the system, according to the state’s new UHIP information dashboard. That’s a 15% drop from the 13,612 total pending cases reported last week.

Old data from DHS showed the backlog topping 27,000 pending cases in March. But Beane said thousands were duplicates or misclassified as pending.

He believes the newly released data about the Deloitte-built computer system is more accurate and encouraging.

“I think we’re going to see some steady progress on the backlog moving forward,” Beane told Target 12. “We’re bringing more staff on board, improvements to the system continue to be made. We’re going to take time to provide extra training for workers, so we’re expecting to continue this progress over the next few months.”

Since UHIP’s troubled launch in September, the $364-million benefits eligibility computer system has affected benefits and health care for tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders.

In January, Gov. Gina Raimondo halted all payments to Deloitte, and a month later she publicly apologized for launching the system when it wasn’t ready.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the other numbers released Friday:

  • 353 pending applications for expedited SNAP food benefits
  • 1,303 pending regular SNAP applications
  • 700 pending child care assistance applications
  • 7,509 pending medical applications

The goal now is to reach a steady caseload of 3,000 to 5,000 pending applications by September, according to Beane.

“Our top priority is to provide Rhode Islanders with timely access to benefits,” he said.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.