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RI picking up more of the $656 million tab for UHIP

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The estimated cost to operate Rhode Island’s benefits eligibility computer system through 2021 has grown to more than $656 million, according to a document newly submitted to the federal government.

State taxpayers will foot $154 million for UHIP – short for Unified Health Infrastructure Project – while the rest of the cost is expected to be covered by the feds.

The new document reveals Rhode Island’s share of the tab for UHIP is rising. Its $154 million total over 10 years represents 23% of UHIP’s revised budget; a year ago the state’s share was pegged at 21%.

UHIP went live in September 2016 with a $364 million price tag.

The system was supposed to streamline benefits like Medicaid, food stamps and child care assistance for hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders, but almost immediately after the launch, users reported missing benefits, hours-long call wait times to the Department of Human Services, and long lines at DHS field offices.

While the new report reveals increasing costs, it also highlights improvements.

“Federal fiscal 2019 was a watershed year for UHIP, as we made significant progress and are now enjoying the benefits of this powerful tool,” the document said. (The federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30.)

The report also notes, “Backlogs have dropped, timeliness has improved across programs and system incidents are at their lowest. Most encouraging, is knowing that [federal fiscal year] 2020 will bring even greater advancements as the technology continues to improve.”

But the system and the people who rely on it still face challenges. For example, as of June, there were still nearly 900 known code defects in the system, according to the document.

Last March, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced she had negotiated a $50 million credit from Deloitte, the company that built and operates UHIP, as part of a deal to extend its contract by two years.

It remains unclear how much of that $50 million will be taken by the federal government.

David Levesque, a spokesperson for the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said Thursday the credit is not included in the new budget document. He said “conversations continue.”

“This payment could be used to cover a portion of the state share expenses but that would be at the state’s discretion,” he added.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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