Rhode Island has launched a new and massive technology enabled eligibility platform that will handle registration for a variety of earned benefit programs in the state. The project involved moving over 30 years worth of benefits data from a legacy system and represents a significant modernization effort at the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
The modernization is the result of technology changes required by the Affordable Care Act.
The platform is called by the Unified Health Infrastructure Project and will handle SNAP, cash assistance, Medicaid and child care assistance from the state in an integrated way. Individuals who apply for earned benefits will now have an easier and technology driven process. On the case management side, government officials will also have a clearer view into who is getting benefits and will be able to better guard against waste, fraud and abuse.
Even though the modernization is likely to lead to greater efficiencies, it has come at a pretty steep price. According to one local press account, the total cost of the project has nearly tripled from its original estimates to $364 million. Early estimates had placed the project at approximately $135 million.
Deloitte is running the project for the state and the funding is coming from a mix of state and federal dollars, with the federal government picking up most of the cost. State officials have said publicly they are pleased with Deloitte’s work, although the company has run into trouble with IT modernizations in other states. As CivSource has reported before, many times IT modernization costs can balloon over the life of a project. Rhode Island is still on the hook for $79 million of the total project cost.
The next test for the platform will be determining whether it actually works at scale. State officials slowed benefits response time last week so they could ensure that citizen information was moved over and to run initial tests on the platform. State officials have not responded to requests for comment on how well those tests went.