The Florida Senate confirmed Mary Mayhew as Secretary for the Agency for Health Care Administration over the objection of Democrats.
The Senate voted 26-13 in favor of Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ pick.
But Democrats voiced grave concerns about Mayhew’s past management of Maine’s Medicaid programs.
A federal audit of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services under Mayhew’s leadership found the state failed to investigate more than 130 deaths of developmentally disabled patients.
State Sen. Lori Berman, a Boynton Beach Democrat, said was not satisfied with Mayhew’s explanations.
“She said she inherited a dysfunctional department in Maine, that she learned from mistakes made,” Berman said. “People say the right words at all the right times, but in the end, it’s always their judgments you should judge them by.”
Democrats also questioned whether her experience in Maine would prepare her for managing health care in Florida’s third-most populous state. Multiple senators noted Florida’s Medicaid-eligible population exceeds the entire population of Maine.
Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson made clear before Session that she had grave concerns about Mayhew. She said during an Associated Press briefing in January that Senate Democrats would fight the choice.
On Wednesday, she requested a chance for Democrats to air concerns on the Senate floor.
But state Sen. Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican, voiced support for Mayhew, and praised DeSantis for the pick.
She said finding a candidate with experience running a state agency and who also worked within the federal system would benefit Floridians.
“She is on target,” Harrell said. “She will put the patients of Florida first.”
Harrell, chair of the Senate Health Policy Committee, said she spoke with Mayhew for hours about the Secretary’s vision for the agency. As the state rolls out new managed care programs and examines its foster care system, Harrell trusts Mayhew to watch out for Florida’s most vulnerable.
Mayhew’s confirmation ultimately was not a surprise. Earlier this month, a Senate committee gave her the go-ahead. That came after she offered assurances regarding Florida’s safety net programs.