Kathy Hart, director of Medicaid for Onondaga County, retaliated. A few weeks after she read my email, I was followed.
I went to a doctor’s appointment. When I came out and got into Thomas’ van for the return trip home, he told me that when he arrived at the doctor’s office, a blue Trans Am was parked on the side street by my doctor’s office. A small woman with scraggly black hair and glasses got out of the car and approached him. She said she was from the Dept. of Social Services, and asked him if he’d brought Anne Woodlen. He said yes. She then said to him, “This isn’t about you,” walked back to her car and drove off. It was about me. Thomas said that in all the year’s he had been driving, this had never happened before.
I was being followed. I filed a ride order with Rural Metro, which ran the medical dispatch service under contract to Medicaid. Medicaid is a division of the Dept. of Social Services. Kathy Hart was the director of Medicaid. She was probably the only person who could get a DSS person to monitor Medicaid rides.
Kathy was having me watched.
I was terrified. My ancestors helped create this country. We had a long history of living honorable lives with integrity. I had never knowingly or intentionally violated any of the Medicaid rules. All I had done was try to deal honestly with the people who ran Medicaid transportation and get them to make the system work right. I came of age in the 1960’s when my peers protested the Vietnam War and President Nixon and FBI Director Hoover had them followed. This couldn’t be happening to me. My government had turned against me because I spoke up against its failed policies.
Every year, on the Sunday before the Fourth of July, my family—the descendants of John Hope—gathered on the family farm for a reunion. We gathered at Hopedell, where the Hope’s took in travelers from Philadelphia while the Constitutional Convention was sitting there. Now, a hundred of my nearest and dearest kin gathered at Hopedell after church, carrying picnic baskets of fried chicken and cold ham, potato and macaroni salads, deviled eggs and lemon butter, sugar cookies and devil’s food cakes. We drank lemonade and ice tea, for Pete’s sake. Uncle Roy, who was the oldest male and retired from Bell Telephone, asked the blessing and then we gathered to eat around the tables set under the old maple trees. After lunch, the men played baseball in the meadow, then broke to go do the milking. In the evening we would eat again then, as darkness gathered, the children would be given American flags and sparklers. Our family reunion and the country’s Independence Day had been linked for hundreds of years. And now the director of Medicaid was having me followed?
In October 2003, I wrote to the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union:
“Several months ago, I wrote a letter of complaint to a government contract agency, and I am now being followed.
“I am disabled and travel to medical appointments by Medicaid transport. Since January 1, Rural Metro has had the contract to dispatch Medicaid transport. The contract comes through Kathy Hart, director of the Medicaid Division of the Dept. of Social Services of Onondaga County.
“Rural Metro dispatches about 45,000 rides per month. This is not an emergency service; ride requests must be filed three days in advance. Without the knowledge or permission of the customers, Rural Metro is taping all phone calls.
“About three months ago, I became so frustrated by the problems with the dispatch service that I wrote to Rural Metro, identifying seven problems and their probable cause, and recommending solutions. Wayne Freeman, director of the Communications Unit, called me and said he didn’t understand the letter, then he ordered that all my ride requests had to go through him.
“My transportation problems thereafter became horrendous and unbearable. Nine times, my ride requests were simply dropped. Transportation vendors were sent to the wrong address to pick me up, or told to drop me off at the wrong address. Return pickup times were not sent to the vendors. Changes were not forwarded to the vendors. The wrong vendors were sent. One day two doctors had each cleared an hour on their schedule to meet together with me. They were sitting downtown waiting for me, and I was in Fayetteville waiting for transportation that did not come because Mr. Freeman had not sent out the order. The damage to my health has been incalculable.
“I do not know whether Wayne Freeman’s actions are the result of malice or stupidity. I do know that he and his people are making mistakes, but their attitude is that it is my fault. I had repeated conversations with Freeman. He is, at least, illogical and nasty. I repeatedly said that I did not want special treatment, and asked that he take his name off my file. He wouldn’t do it.
“I went to Kathy Hart at DSS. She dragged her feet, but seemed to be working with me. Then I received an e-mail from her that was intended for Rural Metro. She called me a troublemaker, said I liked to play games, and cited incorrect facts. In another phone call with her, she agreed to direct Wayne Freeman to stop singling me out for ‘special treatment’ and let my rides go through the system just like everyone else’s.
“Last Friday, when I came out of a doctor’s appointment, the transport driver told me that a car had been parked on the side street watching my doctor’s office. The driver approached him, identified herself as being from the Dept. of Social Services, and questioned him about me. She assured him that it was not about him, then drove off before I came out.
“I have done nothing wrong. I wrote a letter criticizing a government contract agency and suggesting changes. Now I am being followed. I wake up in the middle of the night, listen to the darkness around me, and am afraid.
“Can you help me, either directly or by referral to some other person or agency?”