After a troubled rollout, Deloitte Consulting was called in front of the House Oversight Committee to answer for problems in the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP). Deloitte, a global management firm, was tapped in 2016 to develop UHIP, the computer software that would integrate 48 different federal and state benefit programs into one secure system, delivering food, child care, medical and cash subsidies to 300,000 Rhode Islanders.
UHIP began as a $100 million benefits and eligibility system that soon ballooned to nearly $492 million to complete, and when UHIP went live in September 2016, the state immediately experienced a significant lack of functionality.
Since the rollout, users started reporting missing benefits, hours-long call wait times to the Department of Human Services, and long lines at DHS field offices.
The state is also facing two federal class action lawsuits over UHIP, both filed by the ACLU's Rhode Island chapter. One alleges some Medicaid recipients have not been given enough notice about the termination of their benefits and the other accuses the state of illegal delays in providing SNAP benefits caused by the system.
On Thursday, Deloitte appeared before our Oversight Committee to provide testimony regarding the rollout. Notably, in 2016, the Federal Government advised the state and Deloitte to refrain from taking UHIP live, and an independent third party verification company gave the same advice. The state and Deloitte also did not use a pilot program to slowly incorporate UHIP and test its functionality
However, Deloitte's testing indicated the system was ready to go live. UHIP then went live with full statewide implementation, and the results have been less than ideal.
RI Representative and Oversight Committee member Blake Filippi asked Deloitte’s Deborah Sills a series of questions regarding the botched rollout during Thursday's meeting.
“How did your quality assurance system not adequately predict the real, on the ground operations that would happen once you went live?” Filippi asked. “Isn’t an adequate quality assurance testing one that would test in the manner the customers would use the system?”
“In these situations, there are many, many variables,” Sills responded. “It’s not possible to test every circumstance. I’m not defending our testing process here, based on the issues that we’ve had with the system. In retrospect, clearly we would have tested more. […] We’ve had problems that we didn’t anticipate, so it's clear that more testing at the time would have been advantageous and would have helped us avoid these issues.”
Filippi also asked if there had been a financial incentive for Deloitte to go live with UHIP by a certain date.
“Typically in these contracts, there’s a payment that occurs after go-live,” Sills said.
Since the rollout, Governor Gina Raimondo said she had been “misled” by Deloitte as to their readiness for UHIP to go live. When asked by Filippi if Deloitte had misled the governor, either intentionally or unintentionally, Sills said she could not answer the question definitively.
“If things go south, people can die,” Filippi said.
After the Oversight Committee meeting, Filippi released a scathing statement about Deloitte’s mishandling of UHIP.
“In short, our $492 million eligibility system has been unable to offer consistent and timely eligibility determinations across numerous platforms, including SNAP ('food stamps') and Medicaid. Under-privileged individuals have gone without food, sick people have gone without treatment, and many nursing homes are on the brink of financial ruin,” Filippi said.
However, Filippi ended his statement by saying that “Deloitte and the Governor's office have assured us that UHIP will be fixed sometime this year.”
“Please be assured that our Oversight Committee will continue to stay on top of UHIP until it is fixed and those responsible are held accountable,” he said.