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Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

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By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

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By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Iowa Democratic Party.
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Iowa Democratic Party.

Harkin: Mistake to drop end-of-life counseling in Medicare

By Douglas Burns | 01.10.11 | 8:09 am

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) says the Obama administration is wrong to eliminate references to end-of-life counseling in the protocol for the new annual Medicare check-up.

Responding to questions on the matter during a conference call with several members of the media, Harkin said seniors should have vital information about such planning available. The matter shouldn’t be a controversial political issue.

“I think the Obama administration should not have dropped that reference,” Harkin said. “I think that we need that type of counseling in Medicare when you go in for an annual check-up. It’s not death panels. It’s just basically letting people know what their rights are and giving them the option.”

One version of a House health-care bill in 2009 included a provision for end-of-life counseling on a voluntary basis in Medicare but it was pulled after former GOP Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin famously seized on the language and accused Democrats of pushing “death panels” in which she alleged that doctors and the federal government would conspire to withhold treatment from elderly people under the guise of end-of-life planning.

In the summer of 2009, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) usually cast in the role of elder statesman, found himself in a 24/7 news cycle circus involving Palin’s charge of rationing.

No such rationing provision existed in proposed legislation but detractors seized on a plan inserted by a Georgia Republican to provide Medicare funding for voluntary end-of-life counseling for living wills. The government’s role would have been to reimburse doctors for taking the time to have the conversations.

Grassley thrust himself into the center of the media firestorm surrounding the matter by saying the following: “In the House bill, there is counseling for end of life. You have every right to fear. You shouldn’t have counseling at the end of life, you should have done that 20 years before. Should not have a government run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma.”

Harkin hinted that such rhetoric is behind the administration’s decision to abandon plans that encourage people to make living wills and otherwise inform family and medical providers of their last wishes so loved ones don’t have to make painful guesses.

“I know that Palin and others have talked about the death panels,” Harkin said. “You shouldn’t let scare tactics like this do away with what you know is right and proper and good for people.”

Harkin said people opposed to end-of-life counseling references in Medicare check-ups are simply withholding information seniors should have.

“It can be devastating for families because they haven’t planned,” Harkin said.

Harkin dismissed as ridiculous the notion advanced by some that people should only deal with end-of-life decisions when they are terminal.

“How do you know when you’re going to die?” Harkin said. “No one knows that.”

There should be public information available that encourages patients to discuss these matters with their doctors.

“Now the administration has backed off,” Harkin said.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    Honestly, who does it harm to have Medicare cover a doctor’s consultation fees to help a patient figure out what’s best for them? People don’t plan these things on their own; they don’t always know how much can be done, and how long their state of dying may be extended. Meanwhile, costs for these interventions can be huge.

    Personally, I wouldn’t want to live on tubes and a respirator, or with impaired mental function. I certainly think there’d be better places for that money to go than to keep a shell of me alive, and probably at that point, I’d have better places to be too. Even though I know this is how I feel, I haven’t written a living will, designated an executor, etc, because I’m too young to be thinking about it. But how long should I wait? You never know when you’ll die. For a lot of people, I imagine they delay too long, with painful results.

    Why wouldn’t we be asked in advance by our physician? Everyone can choose to say “I don’t want to thin about it.” But for those of us who have, it might be a relief to have it on the record.

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