New lawsuit filed over UHIP, alleging lack of notice on Medicaid cutoffs

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The ACLU’s Rhode Island chapter has filed another lawsuit over the state’s problem-plagued UHIP computer system, this time alleging some Medicaid recipients have not been given adequate notice about the termination of their benefits.

In a statement Wednesday, the ACLU said the federal class-action suit involves the Medicaid Premium Payment Program, under which Medicaid pays the monthly Medicare premiums for some elderly and disabled residents. (Medicare covers all elderly Americans, while Medicaid covers low-income Americans.)

The suit alleges some of the program’s enrollees received no advance notice that they had been removed from it, while others received notice but were not given a reason as required by law. The plaintiffs are Christopher Scherwitz, a disabled Social Security recipient, and John Figuried, an 82-year-old who receives Social Security because of his age.

“State officials keep on talking about how hard they are working to fix UHIP. Nobody should find that response acceptable anymore,” Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island ACLU, said in a statement. “It’s been 15 long months for many of the state’s poorest residents, so our response is: you clearly aren’t working hard enough.”

UHIP – short for the Unified Health Infrastructure Project – is a nearly half-billion-dollar system for managing various social-services programs in Rhode Island. The system hasn’t worked right since its September 2016 launch, leading to delayed and missing benefits, the resignations of top officials, more than $80 million in credits from developer Deloitte, an apology from Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, and widespread political recriminations.

Ashley O’Shea, a spokeswoman for the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services, acknowledged the Medicaid issue in an email Wednesday. “The state is working to address this issue – a result of the flawed Deloitte system – and has been working in good faith with the ACLU on both an immediate mitigation plan and a plan to fully resolve the issue,” she said.

“Even one Rhode Islander experiencing this issue is one too many,” she added. “We are continuing to hold Deloitte accountable for delivering a system that works for Rhode Island.”

The ACLU previously filed suit over another program managed through UHIP, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps, alleging illegal delays caused by the system. A judge recently appointed a special master to try and find solutions to the SNAP issues.

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 and Facebook

Susan Campbell contributed to this report.