CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – The ACLU’s Rhode Island chapter has reached a settlement with the state in a lawsuit that alleged some Medicaid recipients lost coverage without adequate notice.
The federal class-action lawsuit claimed Rhode Island’s problem-plagued computer system for benefits — known as UHIP, short for the Unified Health Infrastructure Project — was to blame.
The suit alleged “improper notice” put some individuals who receive benefits through the Medicare Premium Payment (MPP) program “at risk of losing their homes and their utilities and … funds needed for their daily living expenses, including food.”
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the state added hundreds of individuals back to the MMP program, according to the ACLU.
The settlement says the state agreed to provide “timely and adequate” advance notice prior to terminating MMP benefits.
“The people participating in the MPP program are among our state’s most vulnerable residents,” said Steven Brown, the executive director of ACLU of Rhode Island. “We are pleased that our legal action has established some safeguards against the erroneous loss of this important benefit.”
The state will also pay $59,624.75 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
In a statement to Eyewitness News, state spokesperson Alisha Pina said, “The Executive Office of Health and Human Services is committed to ensuring the RI Bridges system works for all of our customers and meets federal regulations. We’ve taken action, ensuring all MPP notices are issued in a timely manner.” (RI Bridges is another name for the computer system more commonly referred to as UHIP).
The ACLU also sued the R.I. Department of Human Services over delayed SNAP benefits for food. A court-appointed special master is still overseeing the SNAP program in Rhode Island due to that suit.
UHIP went live in September 2016. The system was supposed to streamline benefits like Medicaid, food stamps and child care assistance for hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders.
Almost immediately after UHIP launched, users reported missing benefits, hours-long call wait times to the Department of Human Services, and long lines at DHS field offices.
The company that built the computer system, Deloitte, is contracted to work for the state through March of this year, but Target 12 has learned the contract may be extended.
“We are currently contemplating a short-term extension to the contract that will allow us to further evaluate our long-term options,” Pina said. “We have not issued an RFP. We hope to have more information available in the coming weeks.”
Last year, Gov. Gina Raimondo told reporters she expected March 2019 would be the end of Rhode Island’s relationship with Deloitte.
“I cannot imagine a scenario in which they could prove to us that they should continue our business,” she said at the time. “They’re welcome to apply, and we will have an open, transparent process, but it is inconceivable to me that they could clear that hurdle.”