As Ted Nesi reports, the state’s Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) goes live, today. Much of the focus has been the cost overruns to get the new software system active — nearing a half-billion dollars if the state gets approval from the federal government for some final additions. But Rhode Islanders should be disconcerted by the vagueness of the talk:
But in an interview last week, EOHHS Deputy Secretary Jennifer Wood was adamant that the next year of UHIP spending will come nowhere near $124 million. She described the amount as an opening bid in months of discussions with federal and state officials over how many additional tools should be added to the system. …
“This is an all-in, integrated system,” [Deputy Secretary of Administration Wayne] Hannon said. “It includes basically one-stop shopping for anybody who could be eligible for these services in the state of Rhode Island. I believe it’s the first … fully integrated system [in the country].”
That’s Rhode Island: first in the nation for cutting-edge government, even though our experience had been that it mainly cuts into the private sector, families’ independence, and our quality of life. What we should be asking is what kind of “tools” we’re talking about, here, especially since that cost is even more than what the state initially estimated for the entire project, as Katherine Gregg notes.
The bureaucrats are touting an expected reduction of improper payments, as the state is better able to determine actual eligibility, but the effect is likely to be opposite.
If all goes well here, the Raimondo administration anticipates the new eligibility system will make “it easier and more convenient for Rhode Islanders to apply for and track their benefits,” make it more likely the state will be able to detect — and stop — waste and fraud, and save enough money to enable the state to recoup its entire UHIP investment “within the next two to three years.”
Right. The state is going to save nearly $100 million over a few years. There’s a reason they call it “one-stop shopping.” The idea is to ensure that nobody misses any benefits for which they’re eligible, even if they don’t know they need them. It’s part of the “company state” push by governments in blue states to make public services the central industry bolstering an area that has lost its ability to compete in the global market, for whatever reason. If anything, the state will “recoup” its investment because it will be able to bill the federal government for its share of the cost of administering much larger welfare rolls.
Of course, being on the cutting edge of the next step in government domination means Rhode Islanders will have the privilege of providing data for other states in the future. So, we’ll have to wait and see whether the welfare roles decrease or increase, just as Medicaid enrollment shot up with the implementation of the health benefits exchange (HealthSource RI). Naturally, the disclaimer is that the state government will have a variety of methods (and a whole lot of incentive) to obscure the reason for any budget-busting increases.