Grassley, Specter in “Tweet” tizzy; Braley points to Grassley ’03 vote

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-New Hartford, Iowa) has just sent a Tweet directed at former Republican U.S. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. 

Specter sent two Tweets via Twitter about 2 hours ago: Called Senator Grassley to tell him to stop speading myths about health care reform and imaginary "death panels."

Followed by: Had to leave a message – for now. I will talk to him soon.

About 90 minutes later, Grassley Tweeted: Specter got it all wrong that I ever used words "death boards". Even liberal press never accused me of that. So change ur last Tweet Arlen

(How often do you think Specter's gotten a "Change ur last Tweet Arlen" message?)

UPDATE:  Specter sent three more Tweets this afternoon at about 5 p.m. eastern; Grassley hasn't replied.  Here's what Specter thumbed: Senator Grassley is not available on the phone today, but I will talk to him as soon as possible to clarify his position on living wills…I believe it is appropriate to counsel people on their choices, but no one should tell…anyone else what to do about health care near the end of their lives.

Meanwhile Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo, Iowa) sent out a statement on the whole "end of life" matter.  Read it below.

Braley Statement on Grassley’s End-of-Life Care Doublespeak

Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) issued the following statement today in response to media reports that Senator Charles Grassley and other Republican leaders supported a 2003 Medicare bill that included optional coverage for end-of-life care consultations between patients and their doctors.

“Senator Grassley continues to repeat the ridiculous claim that paying doctors to discuss end-of-life care with their patients is somehow 'pulling the plug on grandma,’ yet in 2003 he voted for a bill with a nearly identical provision allowing Medicare to reimburse doctors for end-of-life care consultations.  It’s doublespeak like this that makes people cynical about Washington politicians.  Senator Grassley needs to stop the fear tactics and stick to the facts about healthcare reform.  We need a rational discussion so we can achieve much-needed reform in this country,” said Braley.

Late last night, Time reported that Senator Grassley had supported a 2003 Medicare bill including coverage for end-of-life care consultations.  LINK:

The 2003 Medicare Modernization Act (HR 1) passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by President Bush allowed Medicare to fund end-of-life and advanced care planning consultations for terminally ill patients who had not yet elected hospice.  Senator Grassley was a main drafter of this legislation, and supported the bill. 

See for yourself: HR 1 – The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003


About halfway down the page in the link, you’ll see:

Conference Agreement
The conference agreement provides coverage of certain physician's services for certain terminally ill individuals. Beneficiaries entitled to these services are those who have not elected the hospice benefit and have not previously received these physician's services. Covered services are those furnished by a physician who is the medical director or employee of a hospice program. The covered services are: evaluating the beneficiary's need for pain and symptom management, including the individual's need for hospice care; counseling the beneficiary with respect to end-of-life issues and care options, and advising the beneficiary regarding advanced care planning. Payment for such services equals the amount established for similar services under the physician fee schedule, excluding the practice expense component. The provision would apply to consultation services provided by a hospice program on or after January 1, 2005.

Senator Grassley voted for the conference report on this legislation on 11/25/2003:

UPDATE:  Grassley fires back at Braley.  See statement below.

Senator Chuck Grassley made the following comment in response to inaccurate information forwarded by Congressman Bruce Braley regarding legislation on end-of-life care and counseling.

“I’m shocked that Congressman Braley would attack a fellow Iowan before getting all of the facts. His statements over the past two days have been riddled with misinformation about what was said in my town meetings, and now he’s taking my vote in 2003 completely out of context. If Congressman Braley had actually listened to what I’ve said on this subject, he’d know that my support for the provisions in the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) are in line with my long-held view that advanced care planning is a good thing for families to do.  The MMA offers terminally ill patients a pain and care management evaluation and counseling about hospice care and other options. And it offers optional advice from a specialized hospice physician on advanced care planning. One could be assured that the provision of advice on advanced care planning in this context can be done in a correct manner and by an appropriate provider. I can’t say the same thing about what would happen under the provisions in the Pelosi bill. Under the Pelosi bill, all physicians risk losing quality bonus payments unless they report on whether they provide advanced care planning and adherence to that plan. Congressman Braley also misses the larger point when he fails to realize that the concerns about the advanced planning provisions in the Pelosi bill are made because they are proposed in the context of a bill that is ostensibly working to save money by spending less on health care in health care reform, and in a bill that creates a government-run plan that will surely lead to rationing of health care just like has happened in other countries that have government-run systems. It’s plain to see why Iowans and others are legitimately concerned about the unintended consequences of the House bill.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.