The Phoenix Flyer

Senate OKs DeSantis’ embattled pick to run Florida’s Medicaid agency

By: - May 1, 2019 7:00 pm
Mary Mayhew

State Medicaid director Mary Mayhew appears before a Senate committee in 2019.

The Florida Senate confirmed Mary Mayhew as secretary of Florida’s Medicaid bureaucracy Wednesday on a 26-13 vote, with three Democrats siding with the GOP on the confirmation.

She’ll take over the $29-billion Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees programs for some of the most vulnerable people in Florida. The agency also licenses nearly 49,000 health care facilities across the state.

Democrats argued she isn’t up to the task.

They cited federal and state audits that concluded Mayhew had mismanaged the Maine equivalent of the Florida agency – including one report concluding she did not follow federal rules on reviewing the deaths of 133 developmentally disabled residents.

“I cannot vote to confirm Secretary Mayhew at this time. The safety and well-being of Florida’s most vulnerable will always be my priority. I cannot take a chance on someone with her record and possibly put these people at risk,” said Sen. Lori Berman of Palm Beach County.

Sen. Janet Cruz, of Tampa, complained that, in Maine, Mayhew presided over a massive increase in child poverty and health care cuts for 40,000 low income people.

“I don’t believe that Ms. Mayhew is capable of leading AHCA,” Cruz said. “I pray that what happened in Maine under her watch does not happen in the state of Florida.”

“In my view, because of ideological reasons, Secretary Mayhew’s tenure in Maine was also wildly controversial when it did not need to be,” Jose Javier Rodrigues of Miami-Dade said. “We cannot take this risk.”

Stuart Republican Gayle Harrell, however, congratulated Gov. Ron DeSantis on his “excellent pick to run the Agency for Health Care Administration.”

Harrell cited Mayhew’s experience in Maine and within the Trump administration “in transforming health care.”

“I respect the legislative process,” Mayhew said following the vote.

“This is about a diversity of opinion. This is an important position. There should be that level of debate and discussion, and I am incredibly appreciative of the vote in support of my confirmation. I look forward to working with every member of the Legislature.”

“That was in the cards,” Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson said following the vote. “But it was necessary to make sure that the entire body was aware of those things that we learned along the way” about Mayhew.

These Democrats voted to confirm: Oscar Braynon of Broward and Miami-Dade counties; Bill Montford of Tallahassee; and Darryl Rouson, who represents parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Sen. Lauren Book of Broward County was not on the floor.

The Senate did not act on the governor’s nomination of Dr. Scott Rivkees, head of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine, as surgeon general and secretary of the Florida Department of Health.

President Bill Galvano put Rivkees on hold following a report by the News Service of Florida that he “has been embroiled in legal squabbles and investigations,” including a sexual harassment investigation while at UF in 2012 and allegations related to inappropriate comments.

Gibson suggested delaying the confirmation vote until Mayhew proves herself.

“We have an opportunity to slow down,” the Jacksonville Democrat said.

“Not confirming Ms. Mayhew today does not mean that she cannot continue to perform, so that we have an opportunity to see what kind of job she will do for us in the state of Florida, given the information that we have received – not only in writing, but in talking to Maine legislators,” Gibson said.

Other than Mayhew, the Senate approved the following nominations:

Barbara Palmer as director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Halsey Beshears as secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Chad Poppell as secretary of the Department of Children and Families.

Ken Lawson as executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Richard Prudom as secretary of the Department of Elder Affairs.

Noah Valenstein as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Simone Marstiller as secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

James “Jim” Poppell as secretary of the Department of the Lottery.

Jonathan Satter as secretary of the Department of Management Services.

Mark Inch as secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections.

Laurel Lee as secretary the Florida Department of State.

Kevin Thibault as secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation.

Florida Democratic Party chair Terrie Rizzo issued a written statement in response to the Mayhew vote:

“Mary Mayhew will cause mayhem to Florida’s health care system,” Rizzo said.

“With Mayhew at the helm of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, Gov. DeSantis has put people’s health care at risk. The destruction left in Mayhew’s wake from her time in Maine should have disqualified her to run Florida’s Medicaid program. The governor and GOP led legislature have taken a stand against the health and safety of Florida families with their support of Mary Mayhew.”

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.