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C-TAC CEO Honors Late Senator Johnny Isakson’s Legacy

“In the history books…you may never see ‘Isakson’ again.” In his 2019 farewell speech Senator Johnny Isakson characteristically downplayed his significant contributions over 45 years of public service. With the Senator’s passing on December 19th we wanted to recognize his legacy to our cause.  

Over a decade ago, drawing on his own experience as a family caregiver Senator Isakson was one of the few leaders to call for better care for people living with serious illness. “Having not discussed the “what-ifs” when my mom, who had Alzheimer’s, was of sound mind and body, we were left guessing in trying to figure out the right thing to do.”

This sometimes left him in hot water with those who wanted to use the issue – and himself, he’d recall with a wry smile – as a political football. 

Despite this pushback, Isakson was a courageous advocate for people living with serious illness for over a decade. His optimism that he’d eventually win the skeptics over was core to his belief in bipartisanship. “There are only friends and – for the people who disagree with you now — future friends,” he’d say. 

Senator Isakson (R-GA) teamed up with Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) to introduce the Patient Choice and Quality Care Act. This legislation represented a vision for a better way to pay for and provide care for serious illness, including advance care planning counseling. As Senator Isakson said: “Everybody has to make up their own mind. But not having the discussion, not knowing the facts…is what we’re trying to avoid.” 

In 2015, the Senator’s support was critical for Medicare’s approval of the reimbursement of advance care planning, a milestone as our country turned the corner from the earlier days of politicization of the issue. Senator Isakson championed other important health care issues, such as the CHRONIC legislation (Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act of 2017), which helped create the Medicare Advantage Supplemental Benefits – where we are today seeing, just a few years later, as a vehicle for the growth of palliative care and other resources for people with serious illness. 

That’s quite a legacy. 

“I’m big on bipartisanship,” he goes on to say in his farewell speech to the Senate.  “I always looked for that little thing that could bring two people together, no matter what their party,” which he was quick to point out, isn’t easy.  “We might be called all sort of names…but let’s solve the problem and see what happens.” 

Let’s build on the bipartisanship and public policy milestones that Sen Isakson left us, keeping in mind one of his favorite quotes from Mark Twain: “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

1 Comment

  1. David E. Longnecker, MD on December 22, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    The world would be a better place if its leaders held to the values, attitudes and respect for others that Johnny Isakson exhibited throughout his career. His willingness to listen to the views of others, and to focus on the goal, not the glory, were keys to his success as a champion for all of society, be they rich or poor, young or old, Republican or Democrat; oh, that more possessed his values! May he rest in peace, and be emulated by a host of others!

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