The Trump administration is putting the health insurance of millions of Americans in the hands of a former Maine official best known for undermining the public health infrastructure in her state to put low-income families at risk.
Mary Mayhew, Maine’s former health commissioner, was tapped on Monday to run the national Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs. Mayhew will now control the $350 billion budget of the two health insurance programs serving low-income families and kids, according to the Portland Press Herald.
If Mayhew takes the same approach to Medicaid as she did during her time leading Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), she will likely fulfill the Trump administration’s plans of running the health insurance program into the ground and attacking the program she is now responsible for overseeing.
Mayhew was criticized for completely reorganizing the department in a way that harmed low-income people and people with disabilities. During her time in office, Maine’s infant mortality rate grew substantially and the state’s national health ranking plummeted from 8th in the country to 23rd.
The DHHS policy changes made under Mayhew’s watch blocked thousands of vulnerable people from receiving public benefits and left developmentally disabled Mainers abused and neglected without any proper oversight by the state.
For instance, Mayhew’s DHHS slashed the number of low-income Mainers who were able to qualify for Medicaid by tens of thousands. She placed a number of barriers on food vouchers and welfare funds, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), that reduced the number of people who received those benefits, according to the Bangor Daily News. This includes limiting the time a person can receive TANF benefits to 60 months over the course of a lifetime and banning people who don’t have kids or don’t own $5,000 worth of assets from receiving food stamps.
Mayhew once sparred with Congress over the state’s inability to place photo IDs on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, which she says would cut back on welfare fraud but in reality threaten to discourage participation in the program.
Mayhew’s office knowingly broke the law by moving $13.4 million in federal welfare funds earmarked by Congress for low-income children and families into a budget that funds in-home care for seniors and Meals on Wheels, according to the Bangor Daily News. After the newspaper started asking questions about the welfare funds, the state agency moved the funds into its proper federal grant account. Under Mayhew, DHHS also did not spend much of the TANF grants it had received from the federal government to assist vulnerable families — accumulating an estimated $150 million in unspent welfare funds by 2016.
After she took office, the state-run Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta lost its federal certification in 2013 after the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services found the hospital violated federal standards, including using restraints and tasers on patients. The hospital has still not been re-certified, the newspaper reported.
And under Mayhew’s watch, a federal audit found the agency did not follow state regulations by failing to investigate the deaths of 133 people with developmental disabilities between January 2013 and June 2015.
The Trump administration has already been trying to undercut the Medicaid program that Mayhew will now run. Recently, the administration allowed some states to impose harsh work requirements and is weighing whether to allow questions about illegal drug use on Medicaid applications, moves that are expected to leave thousands without coverage. And a new proposal would deny green cards to any immigrant that receives public benefits such as SNAP, Medicaid, or TANF funds.