PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The projected cost of Rhode Island’s problem-plagued computer system for benefits has ballooned by another $150 million after state officials added an additional year’s spending to the forecast.
The state’s latest document updating the federal government puts the total cost of the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) at $647.7 million through the 2019-20 federal fiscal year, with $138 million of that amount to be covered by state taxpayers and the rest by the federal government.
The total projected budget is up from $492 million under the previous budget request to federal regulators, which did not include federal fiscal year 2019-20. The proposal must still be approved.
The UHIP system was supposed to streamline benefits programs including Medicaid, food stamps, and HealthSource RI. State officials have been struggling to fix it since it went live in September 2016.
Deloitte, the company that built UHIP, is contracted to work with the state through March 2019.
According to the document that was submitted to the feds, Rhode Island is anticipating “additional support required for the M&O [maintenance and operations] vendor re-procurement and potential vendor transition” – hinting that a new company may be coming in to take over for Deloitte.
In a statement to Eyewitness News, Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Beane said, “Since Turnaround, our top priority has been ensuring people have access to benefits. We’ve made considerable progress: the overall backlog is down; timeliness is up, with more than 90% timeliness for SNAP over the last three months; and more work is being performed in the system every day.”
“Our attention is now turning to the more discrete, intricate work of ensuring the system is compliant with all state and federal regulations – a focus reflected in this latest submission to the federal government,” he said.
Beane also emphasized that state officials “continue to hold Deloitte accountable” for fixing the system.
“And we will continue to withhold payment from Deloitte until this work is complete,” he said. “For the last 18 months, all of Deloitte’s costs and unanticipated expenses have been covered by credits negotiated by Governor [Gina] Raimondo.”
Prior to the launch, the Raimondo administration insisted UHIP would pay for itself by this summer. But a Target 12 investigation in September 2017 revealed officials were no longer willing to say if the system ever will do so, though Raimondo said at the time it still “has the potential to pay for itself.”
The latest cost estimate led to a new round of criticism from Raimondo’s gubernatorial opponents.
Republican candidate Allan Fung challenged Raimondo to provide a final cost estimate for UHIP once all is said and done. Otherwise, he argued, she should “finally admit that she doesn’t have a price tag on her administration’s colossal incompetence.”
Democratic candidate Matt Brown said, “The UHIP disaster is the most expensive IT project in Rhode Island’s history. It’s also the most disastrous. We can’t forget how we got here: Governor Raimondo launched UHIP prematurely while cutting 40 staff, despite federal and state warnings that the system wasn’t ready.” He added, “I would never let something like this happen.”