ANNAPOLIS – The former assistant secretary for U.S. Health and Human Services, S. Anthony “Tony” McCann, was named secretary of Maryland Health and Mental Hygiene by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Wednesday.
On Oct. 3, McCann, 61, of Silver Spring, will replace Nelson J. Sabatini, who is retiring at the end of the month.
McCann worked at HHS from 1986 to 1989, and then served four years as assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He is director of financial affairs for the Smithsonian Institution.
Ehrlich also appointed state Delegate Van T. Mitchell, D-Charles, and John G. Folkemer, state Medicaid director, to be deputy secretaries at the department.
Mitchell, 48, of La Plata, has been a member of the House of Delegates since 1995. He recently served as chairman of the House Health and Human Resources Subcommittee of House Appropriations.
Folkemer, 56, of Baltimore, has 25 years of experience with Maryland Medicaid issues.
McCann, Mitchell and Folkemer take over at a time when health care issues such as medical malpractice and rising prescription drug costs are hot topics in Maryland and nationwide.
McCann said he hasn’t been briefed as to his exact role in these issues, but understands that something needs to be done about the numerous problems in the health care industry.
“We have some real Medicaid issues we’re dealing with,” he said. “And I gather the whole medmal and liability issues will be discussed.”
McCann, a Republican like his predecessor Sabatini, said he’s only met Mitchell once, but is confident he’ll be able to work with his Democratic colleague.
“Hopefully he fills the things I need and I fill the things he needs,” McCann said.
Folkemer, also a Democrat, said because the team hasn’t really had a chance to talk, a lot of things need to be resolved. The trio will have to work across party lines in order to get things done.
“I think the team is extraordinary,” McCann said, “but we’re going to have to have some time to get it together.”
In a news release, Ehrlich said he is sure McCann and his deputies will help Maryland “build on the many successes” it achieved under Sabatini.
“I have confidence that Tony’s team . . . will work across the aisle and with all stakeholders to deliver quality and affordable health care in Maryland,” Ehrlich said.
Sabatini praised his replacement.
“I’ve known him for 20 years,” he said. “He’s one of the smartest, most confident public officials I’ve met.”
Sabatini, 64, said he’s retiring to spend time with his grandchildren, splitting his days between Maryland and Hawaii.
Sabatini has been secretary twice, working under Ehrlich since April 3, 2003, and serving under former Democratic Gov. William Donald Schaefer from 1991 to 1994.
Schaefer, now comptroller, said McCann will have “gigantic shoes to fill.”
“I don’t care who the new secretary is,” he said. “No one has the external knowledge and background as Sabatini. I wouldn’t like to take Sabatini’s place.”