AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew Comes Another Step Closer To Senate Confirmation

Apr 8, 2019

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew addresses Senate Health Policy committee members during her second confirmation hearing on April 8, 2019.
Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM

New Agency for Health Care Administration secretary Mary Mayhew got her second positive vote of confirmation from a Senate committee Monday. Mayhew faced more tough lines of questioning from Health Policy committee members, but won over one key Democratic vote.

At Mayhew’s first confirmation hearing last week, Democratic Senator Darryl Rouson inquired about reports that AHCA was pushing cuts to reimbursement rates for providers who treat children with autism. The former top Medicaid official for the Trump administration surprised the committee by announcing the agency was no longer going forward with the proposed cuts.

Rouson says he’s concerned that funding for the program is only protected “at this time”

“How do we know that you’re not going to turn around after this confirmation and do the rate cuts to those providing services to autistic children,” Rouson asked.

Mayhew acknowledged to the Senate Health Policy committee the timing may have seemed suspect to some.

“I realize the timing seemed remarkably close to my confirmation hearing, where I obviously came out with it during my confirmation hearing,” Mayhew said. “We had just had the first public information meeting about the rates, about other changes that we were proposing.”

Mayhew didn’t guarantee that cuts are completely off the table, saying meetings will be held through the rest of the year on the issue.

“We are not moving forward (with rate changes), and we are going to use the summer, the fall, to get comprehensive information from providers, to have meetings,” Mayhew said. “We’re going to continue with meetings around the state so we can hear from individuals to get good information about the costs.”

Rouson’s fellow Democratic senator Janet Cruz had questions about the former Maine head of healthcare’s record.

“According to the reports, you proposed to cut your department’s budget in Maine, which were freed up to pay for income tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent in your state,” Cruz said. “How does this maintain your claim that you protect Maine’s truly needy?”

Mayhew defended what she characterized as a necessary financial move that she insists ultimately benefitted programs.

“Our focus was to get the financial house in order,” Mayhew said. “And when we did that, we dramatically increased our funding for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to reduce our waitlists. We eliminated the waitlist for homemaker services, which is the meal preparation support with housecleaning.”

Karen Woodall from the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy was one of those who urged Senators not to confirm Mayhew.

“Senators, I just want to remind you: Florida’s Medicaid population is three times larger than the entire population of Maine. (More) than the entire population – not Medicaid – the population,” Woodall said.

Ultimately, Senator Darryl Rouson, who was a ‘no’ vote at Mayhew’s first confirmation hearing last week, said he’s willing to take a chance on the new secretary. Rouson adds he met with Mayhew for an hour and a half after last week’s meeting.

“And in this instance I looked her in the eye and I said ‘The cost is human capital if you do not do right by the vulnerable,” Rouson said. “The cost is loss of life, loss of access to beneficial services, needy services by the neediest of our population. So, I’m willing to give a chance, based on sworn testimony by her – not a newspaper article, not a speech on Youtube – but twice now, sworn testimony.”

Cruz, meanwhile, says the AHCA secretary post isn’t something on which she’s willing to gamble.

“Many have said – I think I just heard it – they want to give you a chance and see how you handle this new role,” Cruz said, eluding to Rouson’s remarks. “Well AHCA’s budget is almost $29 billion dollars – Florida’s Medicaid program has four million enrollees, and this is not something that you take a chance on.”

Mayhew ultimately passed her second of three confirmation hearings with a 7-2 vote. The only two ‘no’ votes came from Democratic Senators, with Lauren Book and Darryl Rouson voting for Mayhew’s confirmation.