Playing with Power


Anne C. Woodlen, CEO

 Caring for Annie, Inc.

 Being disabled and embedded in the system—Social Security Disability, Medicare, Medicaid, Heating Emergency Assistance Program, Food Stamps, doctors, medical transport, case managers, aides—is the equivalent of running a small business.  It requires the skills of scheduling, managing employees, filing forms, knowing regulations, and accessing funding, among others.  You can take your place at the bottom of the system, identify yourself as the patient, and submit to every gross thing the system does to you, or you can become the chief executive officer of your own company.

            As CEO of Caring for Annie, Inc., I have become fully in control of my own life, recognizing that I have to contract with an apparently endless number of other companies in order to get my company to work effectively.  Personally, my success as a CEO includes the ability to be a good reporter, a paralegal, a time management expert, a diplomat, and a cutthroat power player.

I am an independent contractor.  I am Donald Trump, weighing the needs of the organization against the talents of the employees, and announcing, “You’re fired.”  Caring for Annie, Inc., is a business and the decisions to fire people are not personal.

            My first firing came unintentionally.  Medicaid transportation dispatch had a very nasty young woman taking phone calls to schedule ride orders.  She was abusive, insulting and controlling.  When she became annoyed, she would put the caller on hold without announcement.  One day she kept me on hold, tying up the phone in my doctor’s office, for half an hour.

After months of this kind of thing, I decided to report her to her supervisor.  She refused to give me her name or job title, or her supervisor’s name or job title—all of which information is required to be given by anyone paid with government monies.

            Nevertheless, I got to her supervisor and complained.  It did me no good, so I spoke with the supervisor’s supervisor, who also blew me off.  I dropped the matter, but several times a week, I would have to run the gauntlet past this nasty young woman and the frustration and anger were making me sick.  I knew that if I was having trouble with this person, then a lot of older, sicker, less intelligent people were having the same trouble without knowing how to deal with it.

            My aide—a big, blousy redhead—stood in the kitchen and yelled at me that I couldn’t stop; I couldn’t give up; I had to do something.  I made one more call, this time to the director of the dispatch agency.  I made simple, orderly, factual statements about what the employee was doing.  The director asked questions to gather more information, and clearly was making notes about the matter.  During one writing silence, I asked her what she was going to do about the employee.  She replied, “Fire her,” and Annie discovered Power.

            I sat there with my mouth hanging open.  I, the patient—the least of the least, the lowest of the low, the poor and broken beast, presumed to be the dumbest person in the system—had just gotten somebody fired.  I was dumbfounded, then exultant.  Power!

 Herewith is what I have learned about the effective use of power:

1.  Know the rules.  There are rules, regulations, laws and commandments that govern all human behavior.  When you are having a problem with someone—presumably in some agency—inform yourself about the rules under which that person operates.  Figure out which rules have been broken.  Is the employee/agency, in fact, supposed to be doing what you want?

2.  Talk to the person who has the power to do what you want.  Arguing with the receptionist about a prescription is pointless because she doesn’t have the power to write the prescription.  Ask to speak to the nurse, who can talk to the doctor.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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