Gov. Gina Raimondo reached a deal last Friday to extend the state’s contract with consulting firm and private contractor Deloitte to maintain oversight of RI Bridges, Rhode Island’s recently updated public-benefits computer system, previously known as the United Health Infrastructure Project.
This deal comes after months of negotiations with Deloitte, following technical issues with RI Bridges since its launch in 2016. These failures resulted in long backlogs and wait times for public assistance programs, affecting Rhode Islanders who depend on benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid. Going forward, the state will pay Deloitte only for future operation and maintenance costs, estimated to total $30 million until the contract expires in 2021. In return for the discounted rate of service and Deloitte’s past and future payments to the state, Rhode Island will not sue Deloitte over past failures of the RI Bridges system.
The deal stipulates that Deloitte will pay the state $50 million, part of a total $210 million in cash and discounts since the system’s launch, according to a state press release.
In addition to the financial agreement, the deal includes Deloitte’s commitments to provide continued operational support and to deliver free transition services if the State hires a new provider, according to a report from the Department of Human Services. The agreement will also increase Deloitte’s accountability for fixing problems with the RI Bridges system and require that it provides broader warranty protections, the report stated. According to Gov. Raimondo, this settlement is unprecedented in scale.
Deloitte has been working hard to right these wrongs, wrote Senior Manager for Federal and Public Sector Public Relations Megan Doern in an email to The Herald. “We accepted responsibility for the technical issues that impacted Rhode Island residents and worked collaboratively with the state to make things right, dedicating the resources and expertise necessary to improve access to benefits, comply with state and federal mandates, and enhance workers’ efficiency,” she wrote.
These efforts have significantly improved the RI Bridges system, resulting in a 70 percent reduction in system issues, the state’s press release reported. According to Courtney E. Hawkins, director of the Rhode Island Department of Human Services, these strides in performance improved access for those who use RI Bridges — nearly one-third of Rhode Islanders.
“Now, the overall backlog is down, SNAP timeliness is averaging 96 percent, renewals are being processed and more work is being performed in the system,” Hawkins wrote in an email to The Herald. “There’s more work to be done, such as improvements to make our customer portal more user-friendly, and we will work with Deloitte to stay on a path to additional success.”
Deloitte’s statement echoed this dedication to future success: “We have consistently acted in good faith and will continue to do so, with a relentless commitment to the people of Rhode Island and the long-term success of the UHIP project,” Doern wrote.
“We are not aware of any other agreement of this magnitude for a system that has been delivered,” Raimondo said in a press release. “While we still have more work to do, we would not have reached this agreement with Deloitte if we hadn’t made significant progress over the past two years.”
Hawkins added that last week’s deal was based on in-depth consideration of Rhode Islanders’ needs.
“It’s critical that every decision we make is grounded in what’s best for those customers that rely on us each day,” Hawkins wrote. “This pending deal, which needs approval from our federal partners, does that, and as Governor Raimondo said last week, is unprecedented. She negotiated a potential settlement that gives millions of dollars back to the state, provides highly discounted services and ensures we are not putting people’s benefits at risk.”
Looking to the future, the state is optimistic that the system’s performance will continue to improve.
“We have strong state governance, 450 Deloitte employees working on RI Bridges and strict performance measures in this pending agreement to effectively monitor the further progress of our system,” Hawkins wrote.