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Oglesby: Pancakes, mentors and planning for the end
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The annual Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast is just over two weeks away, from 7-11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 19. This is THE informal social event of the season.

People from all over converge on the Civic Center to socialize and eat hearty breakfasts of pancakes, sausage, OJ, milk and coffee, etc. Door prizes will be awarded all morning; there will be music and usually a flock of politicians are there braced for any earfuls voters might want to give them.

The meal is cooked and served by Kiwanians and the Youth clubs they sponsor. All proceeds go to finance youth service projects. Tickets are available from any Kiwanis member or at the door.

An old service buddy from my Air Force Reserve office returned to Georgia, tried to find me without success, and then found me last week in an unusual way. He had called The Times asking my whereabouts. The lady who answered hadn’t heard of me, though my column has appeared here regularly for more than 38 years.

My brother-in-law, James, attends the Senior Center in Dahlonega, where my searching buddy now works. He overheard James mention my name and contacted me.

It was good to hear from Tim Wilson, who told me my tutelage has influenced his entire life since. That was truly humbling, like a teacher hearing from an old student. It makes a day! Makes me glad I told my mentors, James Mathis and Ray McRae, before they recently died how much their guidance influenced me and how I appreciated it.

Don’t forget to express your appreciation to those who influenced and inspired you. You’ll make many a day!

Don’t get me wrong here: On average, some 80 percent of health care costs are incurred during one’s last year. I believe strongly in end-of-life planning. We long have had wills, cemetery lots, prepaid funerals, and what I call a "death package." It’s a folder containing already written death insurance claims, all financial accounts, numbers and agents and brokers, safety deposit box contents, living wills, powers of attorney, etc.

We’ve taken the burden of making such decisions off survivors who often wouldn’t be in a mental state to deal with it.

That said, the reasons advanced for having Medicare pay for "end of life counseling" are mostly sound. The idea itself is no good and ought to be rejected.

Medicare announced its premiums are going up in 2010 but is going broke even faster than Social Security which announced there would be no cost of living adjustments the next two years. Adding this counseling to authorized payments will have the good effect of getting more people, many prodded by doctors, doing what they should be doing. The bad effect is demand — and public costs — also increase.

Might I suggest a modest alternative? If people want to prepare end-of-life packages, they can find living will and organ donor samples and forms in many places. They can purchase basic do-it-yourself kits for regular wills, powers of attorney, etc.

One instead might hire an attorney. Allow all or part of their receipted cost of living and organ donor forms to be claimed as an above-the-line deduction on their income tax return just as they already can claim such as tuition and fees, etc.

That way, even those who take the standard deduction can reduce taxable income, and more people will be guided into taking more personal responsibility instead of depending upon government.

Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion page editor. Reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays.