If vendors complained about the way the Medicaid dispatch service was being run, they’d be threatened with losing their contract. Retaliation was the name of the game. If you did not work with Kathy Hart and Wayne Freeman, then you got hit.
The vendors who worked with them were well-rewarded. In particular, the stories circulating about Frank Taddeo, owner of Able Medical Transportation, were frequent and hard to ignore. The stories included bribery and various kinds of skullduggery, not to mention that Able Medical was getting an unfair share of the business.
Under Medicaid transportation regulations, not to mention the Fair Trade Act, if a patient did not request a particular transportation vendor, then MAS was supposed to rotate the rides among all vendors. They weren’t doing it. Unassigned rides were all being funneled to Able. Nice work if you can get it, and if you have a kissing relationship with Freeman’s butt, you can get it.
An additional problem was that vendors get paid by the state, but the state only pays if the MAS ride orders match the vendor’s billing. MAS was sending in wrong data, consequently the vendors weren’t getting paid. Thousands of dollars’ worth of billing was being kicked back and sitting on the vendors’ desks. And the more vendors complained, the more they were threatened with losing their contracts to do business with the county.
And none of the vendors would talk about it. Some reported previously having filed complaints with the state, but there was no indication that the complaints were investigated. Most businessmen simply were so experienced with the county’s retaliation and retribution policy that they wouldn’t talk about it. One vendor was talking to his lawyer about filing a civil suit under RICO—the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
If what Wayne Freeman and Russell Maxwell—doing business as Medical Answering Services—were doing with Kathy Hart, Zachary Karmen and David Sutkowy—doing business as the Dept. of Social Services—wasn’t corrupt then it was so damn stupid as to defy believability.
And then there was me. I had a friend who had a bad word for everyone. When asked what his bad word was for me, he replied, “Naive.” I really believed that somehow this was all just a big mistake. If the right boss-in-charge (maybe Sutkowy) knew about it then it would get fixed. Everybody really wanted to take care of sick people, provide quality transportation, work hard and get paid, right? We were all honorable people and in this together, right? People wouldn’t be reaping undue profits from transporting sick people would they?
I began to suspect they just might be. I doubted it, but it might be happening. Well, the way my mind went, if there’s corruption in government then the newspapers investigate and report, right? So I called the Post-Standard. The city editor said, “Uh-huh” and I never got a call-back from a reporter.
Meanwhile, Wayne Freeman is carrying the title “Administrator of the Onondaga County Medicaid Transportation Program.” His letterhead says “Medical Answering Services LLC, Onondaga County Department of Social Services.” Freeman is a private businessman running a for-profit business and he’s claiming to be a county employee running a county program.
Well, shit. Knowing Freeman and Hart, I figure she gave him the title, so I call the Dept. of Social Services legal department and get someone—if I recall correctly, he said he was a lawyer—and I ask about the legality of this. The guy says, “Um, I’m sure it was approved.” He ain’t sure of nothin’. He’s making it all up without checking.
And somewhere along the line I find out that Freeman is taping all incoming calls. I’m being recorded. There’s nothing on the answering message that says calls are recorded. The call-takers don’t tell you that you’re being recorded. I find out when Freeman tells me that Hart came over to his office and listened to the tape of my call. They’re keeping copies of everything I say, and I have no rebuttal because I don’t have taping capacity. Hundreds of people are calling in every day and being taped and they don’t know it. Hello, right to privacy!
So I get on the phone and start making some more calls. I call the District Attorney’s Office, the NYS Attorney General’s Office and everybody else to whom I’m referred, and nobody seems to be able to figure out if you can be taped without being told you are. Can a contract agency of the county government tape record Medicaid patients without their knowledge? Nobody knows—or cares to figure it out—but how freaked out would you be if you found out that all your calls to the county—the Board of Elections, for example—were being taped?
The Freeman/Hart team is out of control. They’re doing any damn thing they want to without regard to anybody’s rights. One day I call to place a ride order to the doctor and the call-taker demands to know what treatment I’ll be receiving! If you called for a taxi and the dispatcher asked you if you’re going to have a boil on your butt lanced, what would you say? Get a little irritated and tell him it’s none of his damn business, you think you might? The girl asking, by the way, is an answering service clerk, not a nurse or some other medical person.
Whatever happened to confidentiality—that quaint idea that whatever happens between you and your doctor in the treatment room is really, really private?
Freeman and I go around on this a few times and I check my sources and find out what happened. A Medicaid patient called in to place a ride order. She was reading the doctor’s name and address from his business card, which noted several services he provides, not all of which are covered by Medicaid. So Freeman, et al, got their panties in a twist and decided that henceforth they would screen treatment at the point of transportation! (To be continued)