Mary Mayhew, FL’s top hospital regulator, is leaving to run the Florida Hospital Association

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

Mary Mayhew, who as chief of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration regulates hospitals and helped oversee state government’s response to COVID-19, is leaving to become the new chief executive officer of the Florida Hospital Association.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Mayhew’s departure on Friday and said the transition would happen on Oct. 2.

The shift follows public criticism of her agency for awarding a $135 million contract to manage Florida’s Medicaid database to Deloitte Consulting, which designed the unemployment benefits software that crashed so spectacularly amid rampant COVID-related joblessness, as the Tampa Bay Times reported.

DeSantis has ordered an investigation into Deloitte’s contract for the unemployment site.

“It’s interesting that she’s leaving so quickly after awarding the contract to Deloitte and the information that during the contract negotiations, they gave them a 10 on their past performance when they’ve certainly had issues with the state of Florida,” Lori Berman, a Democrat from Palm Beach County who sits on the Senate Health Policy Committee, said during a telephone interview.

Mayhew’s agency oversees Medicaid programs benefiting some of the most vulnerable people in Florida and licenses nearly 49,000 health care facilities across the state.

The Florida Senate confirmed Mayhew by a vote of 26-13 in May 2019, with only three Democrats voting in favor.

The governor’s communications director, Fred Piccolo, said via email that the decision was Mayhew’s.

“The opportunity at FHA came up and Secretary Mayhew felt it was the best decision for her and we wish her the best. The governor is grateful for her service,” Piccolo said.

Mayhew has appeared at DeSantis’ side during public events involving COVID, most recently on Tuesday, when the governor announced plans to ease the ban on family visitation at long-term care facilities.

Mayhew’s agency had enforced anti-COVID regulations in these facilities, including testing of residents and staff to prevent potentially fatal outbreaks.

She played a larger public role than the official ostensibly in charge of public health: Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, who heads the Florida Department of Health but was yanked from a news conference in July after he told reporters Floridians might have to maintain social distancing and wear masks until a vaccine arrived in perhaps one year, as Politico and other news organizations reported at the time.

That was a period when DeSantis was following the Trump administration’s lead in considering ways to reopen the economy far sooner, following the governor’s COVID stay-home order.

Regarding Mayhew’s shift from regulator to head of a lobbying organization, Berman said:

“Obviously, she will use the institutional knowledge that she’s gained and it will be to the benefit of whoever she works for, but that’s what’s been going on. There’s nothing illegal about it, it’s just the way things have been going on for many years in all state legislatures and probably in Washington.”

Berman noted that Mayhew was in the post for a relatively short time. “She hadn’t done anything too drastic during the time she was there,” she said.

DeSantis had nothing but praise for Mayhew in a written statement.

“From spearheading my administration’s efforts to allow for the importation of safe and affordable prescription drugs from Canada, to navigating our top priority during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the most vulnerable, Secretary Mayhew has served Floridians well and we wish her all the best on her new endeavor,” he said. “The FHA has made an excellent choice.”

“I am humbled to have supported the Governor as he led our state in the face of an unprecedented pandemic and public health crisis with his unwavering commitment to protecting our most vulnerable,” Mayhew said in her own written statement.