George Blankenship was an adjunct professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. His adventures with Medicare were made legendary by the late Chicago newspaper columnist, Mike Royko.
Royko was a true, original, hard bitten, newspaper guy. He wore a trench coat, often a fedora hat, and might be seen occasionally with a glass in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Blankenship approached Royko as a last resort after multiple efforts to correct a Medicare problem had come to nothing. All this happened a number of years ago, but things inside the Medicare system haven’t changed all that much.
Mr. Blankenship received a rejection notice on a charge for some fairly standard blood work. On investigation, he discovered that the charge was refused because Medicare had recorded him as deceased. This determination was understandably upsetting to Mr. Blankenship. He actually felt pretty good, even spry on some days.
Blankenship called Medicare on the telephone where some very nice people suggested he fill out a computer form which explained his disagreement with Medicare’s determination of his death. They offered to send him the form. Blankenship filled it out and returned it to the program.
Several weeks passed before a determination letter arrived in the Blankenship mailbox. It was from Medicare and confirmed that Medicare had examined the protest form and saw no reason to change its original determination. George Blankenship was still dead.
Professor Blankenship then visited the local Medicare office in person. He even did a soft shoe for the manager of the office. They gave him the same form… which he submitted… and waited for a determination. In a couple of weeks, he heard from Medicare. Unfortunately, he remained dead.
Figuring he was in a shootout with some very strange computer software, the good professor decided on a new approach. He asked Medicare for information about when he had died, of what, and where he was buried. George wanted to visit his own grave. Medicare refused these pleas because of privacy concerns.
Exasperated, Professor Blankenship approached columnist Mike Royko.
Royko subsequently embarrassed the Medicare program with a column much like this one. Professor Blankenship was finally returned to the world of the living.
George Blankenship’s adventure with government retains its ability to make me smile, except when I find myself in a similar situation. I do hope Professor Blankenship continued to do well.