By KRISTIN GOURLAY
Problems with the state’s new online public assistance system, UHIP, are much more significant than anyone realized.
That’s the major finding of a new report about the rollout of a system that was supposed to improve customer service for people who receive benefits like food stamps and Medicaid. The system was also supposed to save the state money. It’s been clear for months that there are problems. But the new assessment shows just how bad they are.
Nearly one in three Rhode Islanders receives benefits of some kind through a massive state system. Food stamps. Medicaid. Cash assistance. They’re directly affected by what even the governor admits was a botched rollout. Nearly 15,000 applications for benefits are pending. The Economic Progress Institute’s Linda Katz has been tracking the fallout since the system’s launch last September.
“There have been people who have not had access to their medications on time, there are certainly people who have been waiting for SNAP food assistance for long periods of time,” said Katz. “We know that people have not had their applications for child care assistance processed on time. For long term care services we have heard of people who could have been kept at home and wound up going to nursing facilities because they couldn’t get approval for the home based care that they need.”
Speaking on Wednesday morning, Governor Gina Raimondo acknowledged the human cost of the project’s failure.
To all the Rhode Islanders who have been struggling with the system and endured hardships because the system has not worked, I apologize. – Gov. Gina Raimondo
“This isn’t about a computer system. This is about the lives of thousands of Rhode Islanders who are depending on us to get this right. And we’ve let them down,” said Raimondo. “And so to all of the employees at DHS who have been struggling with this new system and to all the Rhode Islanders who have been struggling with the system and endured hardships because the system hasn’t worked, I apologize.”
Home health care providers and nursing home operators would like an apology too because system glitches have kept them from getting paid for months.
To get to the bottom of these problems, Raimondo directed her chief of operations, Eric Beane, to spend 30 days figuring out what went wrong and how to fix it.
Beane’s report was grim. But Raimondo says it was overdue. “His report to me is the first time I’ve received a truly unvarnished, not rosy picture of the situation.”