The county attorney, Zachary Karmen, and his paralegal assistant, Sandi Kane, brought in dozens of pages listing my Call-a-Bus records, and one page of Medicaid rides. They went back and forth, up and down, getting everybody confused. Karmen is repeatedly hammering at the idea that I have taken so many bus rides.
Okay, so we come to February 2007 when my health got worse. Kane says I refused to tell them what was wrong with me. The judge asks Kane to produce paperwork that they asked me—“No, no, written. Do you have proof that you requested this information?”
Hell, no. They had diddly-squat, so Kane goes out and brings in Wayne Freeman, co-owner of Medical Answering Service (MAS) LLC, who’s been sitting outside all this time. MAS is a subcontractor of the county, and is charged with deciding who gets Medicaid transportation and at what level. Karmen leads Freeman through a whole lot of questions and answers. Wayne and I have had a lot of conversations and I refused to answer his questions, he says.
The only time I speak up during Wayne’s gig is when Karmen asks him something about Dept. of Social Services Commissioner David Sutkowy. I ask for a repeat. I am still not clear what that was all about except for one thing: Wayne has testified to talking with Sutkowy about my transportation. Sutkowy is part of this. Wayne says so.
So we come to my rebuttal. I start with, “I used to drive a car, too, but I got too sick to do that. Likewise, I got too sick to take the bus.” (“Change” being a concept that the county has a really hard time grasping.) I agree that between August and February I took the bus a lot—I took the bus everywhere (including the doctor’s) because I was doing really well. Then I got worse and needed Medicaid transportation. So the judge and Wayne do a big segue while she tries to figure out the difference between Call-a-Bus and Medicaid.
I take the opportunity to explain to her that I was on Centro’s Accessible Transportation Advisory Council, and Call-a-Bus has been noncompliant with the American’s with Disabilities Act since its inception fifteen years ago. Centro was so noncompliant that the FTA just finished investigating them and is still writing reports and developing action plans. Medicaid is trying to dump its load on Call-a-Bus and they should not be allowed to do it until the FTA Office of Civil Rights has given Call-a-Bus a clean bill of health.
I tell the judge that Wayne and I have had a lot—a lot—of phone conversations over the years, and he repeatedly refused to put anything in writing for me. He’d call up, quote state laws, say this and that and this and that, get me all confused and then, when I needed to know what to do, there wouldn’t be anything in writing that I could refer to.
I also told the judge that the number 264 for Call-a-Bus rides was misleading because the way they report the information you can’t distinguish between rides taken, rides missed and rides canceled. Also, the county has finagled the records: they’ve cut off the report so that it doesn’t show that after February-whatever, I didn’t take any rides anywhere. I was home in bed being sick. And before that, I never used Call-a-Bus for grocery shopping or to go to church or anything I couldn’t afford to miss—and you just can’t miss doctor’s appointments.
And I tell her—absolutely, unequivocally—that my doctor called Wayne, faxed him the new application, I got rides for two weeks, then Wayne called up the vendor and canceled all my rides.
And I don’t know where I got this brilliant idea but I took the opportunity to ask Wayne a question I’ve been trying to get answered for years. Wayne, I said, “Who makes the decision about whether somebody gets Medicaid transportation?”
Me and my crack staff, he says.
Who, I ask?
I have a nurse, he says, and a social worker.
How many hours a week do they work, I ask? Are they full-time?
He says he doesn’t know how many hours they work; he’d have to look at the payroll. But they work really, really hard.
I ask, Do they go out into the community to assess patients?
No, he says. But they work very closely with doctors.
I say, “My doctor and I have spent years talking a lot about Call-a-Bus and Medicaid transportation, and he’s never once mentioned getting a call from any nurse or social worker—and I’ve got about fifteen diseases, some of which nobody’s ever heard of.” (To be continued)