Roberts Resigns Ahead Of Latest UHIP Assessment

Feb 14, 2017

Roberts and Raimondo in December 2014.
Credit Ian Donnis/File Photo / RIPR

State Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts resigned from her post Tuesday, just ahead of the latest update on problems with the state $364 million Unified Health Infrastructure Project, or UHIP.

Governor Gina Raimondo and Roberts issued a joint statement Tuesday evening, hours after RI Public Radio was among the news organizations reporting that Roberts' resignation as HHS secretary was imminent. Raimondo pointed to ongoing challenges with UHIP as the reason for Roberts' exit.

In her statement, Roberts said, "With the governor's leadership, we have set Rhode Island's Medicaid program on a sustainable path to provide high-quality affordable healthcare for the nearly one in three Rhode Islanders we serve. Across our state's public health and human service agencies, we have also put significant reforms in place to provide better care, services and outcomes for some of our most vulnerable community members."

In her statement, Raimondo praised Roberts as someone who "has fought her entire career to expand access to affordable healthcare for more people. As my secretary of Health and Human Services, Elizabeth played a role in our successful efforts to drive Rhode Island's uninsured rate to one of the lowest in the nation while reducing costs."

However, the governor added, "it has become clear that the challenges faced by UHIP require new leadership. As governor, I am committed to doing whatever is needed to get this fixed for the people of Rhode Island.

Raimondo plans to hold a press event at 10 am Wednesday to discuss a 30-day analysis of problems with UHIP, the IT system for administering human service benefits. The briefing will be held at the state Department of Administration.

According to an email obtained by RIPR, the governor will use the gathering to discuss an evaluation of UHIP by Eric Beane, acting director of the state Department of Human Services "and the corrective action plan."

"The governor is going to brief the media on Eric Beane's 30-day assessment of the challenges at UHIP and the actions she's taking," said Raimondo spokesman David Ortiz.

Earlier, when asked Tuesday morning if Roberts was to submit her resignation, Ortiz said, "The secretary has not submitted her resignation, nor has it been asked for by the governor at this time."

After previously serving as a state senator and lieutenant governor, Roberts was chosen by Raimondo to lead the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, which is composed of four separate state departments.

Beane was made acting director of DHS when the governor last month ousted DHS head Melba Depena and the state's chief digital officer, Thom Guertin, due to problems with UHIP. Beane formerly served as chief operating officer in the governor's office.

The House Oversight Committee is slated to continue its examination of problems with UHIP Wednesday afternoon.

This post has been updated.