Former Maine human services commissioner Mary Mayhew’s tenure as head of the federal Medicaid program has ended less than three months after it began.

Mary Mayhew has left her job as federal Medicaid director after three months.

The former head of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services and Republican primary candidate for governor in 2018 has resigned to take a position in the administration of the soon-to-be governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and DeSantis’ transition office announced.

Mayhew was tapped by the Trump administration in October to lead Medicaid, which manages health coverage for more than 70 million low-income Americans. Her appointment was noteworthy because of her sustained opposition to expanding Medicaid in Maine even after voters approved expansion through referendum.

Mayhew will serve as secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, DeSantis said in a statement Friday.

“With decades of experience and service throughout various leadership roles in both the private and public sectors, Mary Mayhew is a proven innovator and an effective leader in the field of health care,” the governor-elect said. “Mary will be an outstanding Secretary who will bring bold and tested leadership to the Agency.”

In a statement Friday to Modern Healthcare, an online industry publication, Mayhew said she was drawn to take another state-level position because of the Trump administration’s focus on giving states “increased control” over their Medicaid programs.

“It is this vision for state flexibility that excites me about returning to the state level to help Governor-elect DeSantis,” she said in her statement.

Mayhew served for seven years as Gov. Paul LePage’s DHHS commissioner and was among his most high-profile Cabinet members. She oversaw massive changes in the operation of the agency, particularly in social service programs such as food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, that were made to reduce spending.

Her tenure at DHHS also saw prolonged problems at Riverview Psychiatric Center, which lost its federal certification in 2013 over deficiencies in patient care and still hasn’t gotten it back. She was criticized by some health advocates for a slow and weak response to the state’s opioid crisis, which claimed more than 1,000 lives from overdoses from 2015 to 2017.

Mayhew stepped down in May 2017 to announce her candidacy for governor. She finished third in a four-way primary in June. She received 14 percent of the vote, well behind the eventual nominee, Shawn Moody, and also trailing Republican state Senate leader Garrett Mason.

Mayhew, who grew up in Pittsfield, had been a longtime Democrat and hospital lobbyist before she joined the LePage administration and took over the state’s biggest department.

DeSantis, a vocal supporter of President Trump, won election in November, narrowly defeating Democrat Andrew Gillum in a closely watched race.

Mayhew’s former boss, LePage, whose eight-year run as Maine governor officially ended this week, has said he plans to move to Florida, at least part time.

LePage’s successor, Janet Mills, in one of her first acts as governor this week, issued an executive order calling for the immediate expansion of Medicaid.

 

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