With thousands of applications in limbo, RI secures $58M credit from UHIP developer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Following the discovery of thousands of unprocessed applications in Rhode Island’s problem-plagued benefits eligibility system, Gov. Gina Raimondo’s office announced Tuesday that it has secured a $58.6-million credit from the system’s developer, Deloitte.

Deloitte recently disclosed the latest error in the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) to state officials, according to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS). It’s unclear exactly how many applications were missed, or which benefits have been affected.

“There’s no question that it’s a very serious setback,” Eric Beane, secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services told Target 12.

“This is frustrating,” he added. “While we know that we have made significant progress, news like this, it’s unwelcome. It feels like two steps forward, one step back.”

A single father, who asked Target 12 not to reveal his identity, said he had visited the Providence Department of Human Services field office several times over the past month and a half to check in on his application for child care assistance.

“They were more than willing to help,” he said. “It’s just that their system was just not to par.”

In a statement, Raimondo said, “We’re not going to tolerate these ongoing system issues or Deloitte’s poor performance. They owe us a system that works, and we’re not going to pay until we get it.”

“I’ll continue to hold them accountable and will not take the option of future litigation off the table until they deliver,” she added.

The credit will cover maintenance and operations of the system for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which ends June 30, according to EOHHS. The credit is in addition to a $27-million credit announced in April.

In addition, Raimondo’s office also said Deloitte has agreed to cover any federal fines the state faces. It’s unclear how high that amount could reach.

“We do expect there to be significant penalties,” Beane said. “It would be a wild guess at this point. We don’t know. It could be a significant number.”

As Target 12 reported, the federal agency that oversees food stamps, FNS, has warned that Rhode Island may owe a “significant” amount of money for benefits over-payments. An $805,197 fine has also been levied because of the state’s failure to report a contract change with Deloitte.

Since it launched in September 2016, the UHIP system has been riddled with issues that have affected benefits, including Medicaid and SNAP benefits for food for tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders. Months after its launch, Raimondo apologized for the problematic roll-out, and promised a turnaround.

The state’s current contract with Deloitte is scheduled to expire on Nov. 30, after the two sides recently signed a two-month extension.

ACLU of Rhode Island response:

In February of this year, a court order was entered to address a lawsuit that the ACLU and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice had filed to address the disaster known as UHIP. Earlier this month, we went back into court because the Department of Human Services was not only failing to meet the court-ordered benchmarks that had been entered in February for providing timely SNAP assistance, the agency is even unable to provide an accurate report on its level of compliance with those benchmarks.

This latest revelation — that thousands of benefit applications may not have been processed due to system errors — only highlights what has become an indisputable fact: whoever is to blame, the state is simply incapable of resolving this problem on its own. It is intolerable that, more than a year after UHIP was implemented, families are still going hungry because the state is failing to comply with federal law and a court order designed to help the neediest residents of our state get food on the table. It is just as intolerable that this dire information is buried in a news release touting the state’s receipt of money from Deloitte for this ongoing fiasco.

The plaintiffs have asked the federal court to intercede, to make sure the State fully complies with the court-approved settlement in this litigation. Plaintiffs are hopeful that the court’s oversight will compel the State to finally take full responsibility to correct the ongoing UHIP dysfunction and assure that low-income Rhode Islanders receive their food stamp benefits on time, in order to put food on the table for their families.