Seema Verma, head of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has called on Mary Mayhew to become federal director of Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income folks.

Mayhew’s appointment is a threat to public health and could not have come at a worse time.

As commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services under Gov. LePage, Mary Mayhew helped slash public health funding across the state. Public assistance programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and food supplement benefits saw major cuts. Mayhew also lessened the department’s staff considerably, reducing case management and eligibility specialist positions.

On top of all that, Mayhew worked to cut Medicaid spending in Maine and has remained a strict opponent of Medicaid expansion, the law that was passed by voter referendum last November. Once Medicaid expansion is finally implemented here in Maine, Medicaid will be smacked with the dreaded Section 1115 waiver.

The waiver, if approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would impose work or volunteer requirements for Medicaid recipients. Work requirements for Medicaid simply do not work. What’s more, enforcing them will require more staff and resources, something the Maine DHHS doesn’t have. However, I fully expect the waiver to receive Mayhew’s stamp of approval.

Don’t be mistaken – Medicaid expansion will be a good thing for Maine. Hospitals will see higher reimbursement rates and 70,000 low-income Mainers will be newly eligible for comprehensive health care coverage. Yes, all good things for our state.

As a public health professional, I will certainly attempt to do my part. One can only hope that state and federal leaders will do theirs. Mayhew’s track record, sadly, indicates otherwise.

Cory Greenleaf

Portland


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