House finance, oversight committee meet with DHS to discuss UHIP problems

By Kirsten Glavin

kglavin@abc6.com

@kirstenglavin

PROVIDENCE, RI –  The clock is still ticking for Department of Human Services officials hoping to fix multiple problems with UHIP, the states new benefits system, before the federal government pulls funding.

"I think its important that the elected officials are holding us accountable,” Melba Depeña Affigne, a Director of HHS.

In a joint hearing Monday, the House Oversight committee and Finance committee met with DHS representatives to dig deeper into the slew of problems stemming from the program’s roll out.

"I’ve gotten lots of letters and lots of emails from people who are concerned about this system,” said Rep. Marvin Abney, Chairman of the Finance Committee.

Frustrated committee members questioned the quality of employee training for the people hired to help fix the mess.

"Your employees told you a month ago, two months ago… they needed more training!” argued Rep. William O’Brien, a member of the House Oversight Committee.

Other questions included call back times for patients and outstanding payments to long-term care providers.

"I’ve had people say, ‘You know gee, I had to mortgage part of my house so I could pay my employees who are child care providers.’ That gets your attention real quick,” said Chairman Abney.

There are still 11,000 unprocessed applications; 60% of those come from Medicade and 12% from SNAP.

In early November, a glitch in an online portal may have compromised more than 200 people’s personal information.  Meanwhile, a lack of access to food stamps continues to seriously hurt low income families.

"We agree with them in terms of wait times, overcrowding in our field offices, and we’ve made really good improvements so far with those,” said Affigne.