People like to talk and what they like to talk about most is themselves—so listen, already. You want information? Call somebody up, ask a couple friendly questions, and then sit and listen. Affirmatively say “uh-huh” from time to time, but mostly just keep quiet. People don’t like silence so they will talk to fill it.
And while you’re listening, take notes. I’ve accomplished a lot of change in the way government does things simply by sitting in bed, using long distance telephone, and making notes on legal pads. I have tons of legal pads to prove it. Put the date of the conversation on the left-hand side of the page. Under that, write the phone number, name and job title of the person you’re talking to. Then take notes about what you’re hearing. Afterwards, flip the pages up and write the name and number information on the back cover of the legal pad; develop your own directory of important contacts.
I listened to a lot of people talk about Medicaid transportation and I learned a lot. One person I listened to was the owner of a small, family-operated medical transportation company. This guy started his company by living on a diet of canned beans, and only accepting cash rides. He had one van and he needed the cash to buy gas for his next trip. All medical transportation companies take private-pay rides and can handle them however they want to. Most, but not all, medical transportation companies also jump through the government paperwork hoops—there are a lot of them—to get approved for Medicaid trips. Some companies exist almost exclusively on Medicaid.
This guy—call him Thomas—was running a business that employed his father, uncle and sister. He told me that every time he talked to Medicaid Director Kathy Hart and expressed dissatisfaction with the way the system wasn’t working, she would threaten to void his contract. Thomas’ business supported four households, not to mention additional drivers; he wasn’t about to risk their livelihood by fighting Kathy Hart and her cohorts. He was a businessman running a small business, not an action fighter. His job was to stay in business, not change the system.
My job was to change the system. Thomas talked; I listened. One of the things he told me was that Kathy Hart was a two-faced liar. I, in my arrogance, thought he just didn’t know how to have a proper conversation with a powerful female executive. I, after all, was having good conversations with Kathy. I’d call her up to report the problems and at the end of the conversation she’d sum up what we’d talked about and what action she was going to take. I thought she was an efficient and professional woman. Nothing got changed but, still, I had access to the director of Medicaid and I thought that, in time, things would change.
Then one night I went to bed, fired up my computer and checked my email. It contained a message from Kathy Hart to an unknown other; she had copied me in by mistake. It began, “Anne has a history of trying to stir trouble” and went on to “Anne likes to play games” and included lies, innuendos, moral judgments and assorted other things that variously were unfair, unkind and just plain wrong. Kathy Hart had been playing me for a fool all along.
As a result of all the drug damage I had suffered, my adrenal glands were putting out excessive amounts of stress hormones. I sat there, surrounded by the dark night, and shook. A woman with whom I’d been dealing honestly had been dealing dishonestly with me. How about that for being naïve, Anne? I was shaken to the core. Thomas was right. So what to do next? I spent some time in prayer and then wrote:
I felt that we had a good conversation yesterday, and that you were respectful, reasonable and efficient in planning to address the problems. I cannot understand why you would follow that up with the statement that I try to cause trouble.
What I try to do, Kathy, is get the system to work the way it was intended to work.
Please know that I do not play games. Also, I have never split a trip, ordering one vendor to take me and another to do the return. I denied this to Wayne when he asserted that I was doing it. This falsehood may have gotten started because Rural Metro was splitting my trips on Saturday mornings.
Tony refused to carry me based on hearsay, and because I no longer was requesting Speedy as my first choice. Speedy more than doubled in size in the three years I rode with them, and the quality of service is not what it used to be. I asked Tony if I might come and speak to him face-to-face about that. He said yes, then canceled the appointment without explanation.
I do not say things behind people’s backs. I try to make a good-faith direct approach to solve problems, as I have with you. For you to project a future in which other vendors shut me out is prejudicial and unfair. It is very painful for me to see that you are doing this.
Yesterday I sent to Rural Metro cancellations of my existing rides on Thursday and Friday, and a new order for Friday. Rural Metro–presumably Wayne–forwarded the new order to the vendor, but did not forward the cancellations.
I continue to look forward to your response to the questions we discussed yesterday.
Anne C. Woodlen
Now the fat was in the fire; Kathy Hart knew that I knew what she’d said about me.