UHIP: 1 Year Later, A look back at the troubled launch
One year ago the state's new benefits system more commonly known as UHIP, went live. The problems began not long after. Initially, 29,000 people did not receive their social security benefits.
By October, one month after the botched launch, the Governor decided to extend DHS hours to help with the continued problems including incredibly long lines, and a growing backlog of applications and federal warnings.That same month, as hearings at the State House got underway on the failures of the system the Director of Administration stood by the decision to launch despite criticism.
By December, around three months after the launch, the Governor admitted that letting 70 employees go prior to the start with this new system was a mistake.
The next month saw the first wave of big changes in the administration, the DHS Director and Chief Digital Officer were thrown overboard. Also in January, the state started withholding payments to Deloitte, the vendor responsible for the system.
February was met with the largest backlog of applications on the books so far, more than 14,000. That same month the Governor accepted the resignation of the HHS secretary Elizabeth Roberts. Also in February, a scathing report released says UHIP never should have been launched when it was. And, the state settled a lawsuit with the ACLU over SNAP benefits.
In the months to come, a new leadership team would take over. The application backlog starting to show significant signs of decline in April. That same month Deloitte handed over $27 million to the state.
Fast forward to just two weeks ago, despite some improvements the frustration among lawmakers at the latest Oversight hearing was high with many problems still lingering.
One year later, Governor Gina Raimondo admits that the system should not have launched last September.
"To the people of Rhode Island we've made mistakes we've learned our lessons, we're fixing it and we're going to stay at it until it's where we need it to be,” said Raimondo.
The new HHS Director is proud of the progress made so far, but explains there is still a ways to go.
"The hardest thing is just dealing with the fact that after a major system challenge like this it takes a number of weeks and months to get things back on track,” said Eric Beane.
One of the areas still facing immense problems is long-term healthcare. Nicholas Oliver is the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care.
"My concern is that "I'm a patient advocate first and I'm seeing patients that are not getting care and patients that are not getting all the care hours that they need,” said Oliver.
Oliver says the system has caused several providers to go under.
"One that is the most striking is Home Front Healthcare which closed last month which could have left over 450 patients displaced without care,” said Oliver.
The current backlog of applications is down to under 4,000. A majority of the pending applications are related to long-term health care.