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Mayor Daniel Bianchi, on the right, greets Pete Menard, of the GE retirees union.
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Russell Freedman served as the emcee.
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Dr. Charles Wohl, Russell Freedman, and Mayor Daniel Bianchi.

Advocates Call For Expanding Medicare On Anniversary Of Bill Signing

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Advocates held a 'birthday party' for Medicare outside of the Silvio O. Conte Federal Building.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Dr. Charles Wohl says the United States ranks 37th in the world in health outcomes.

But ranks first in per capita spending.

"That is terrible," Wohl said.
"We have a highly inefficient health-care system. Twelve to 30 percent of health-care spending goes down the drain for administrative costs."
However, with the Medicare system, only 3 percent of the total expenses are for administration. The rest goes directly to keeping the elderly and those with disabilities healthy.
That's why Wohl joined with others on Thursday to advocate for the expansion of the federal program.
"We seen how many people suffer from the shortfalls of this program," said Lara Shepard-Blue, of the Massachusetts Nursing Association.
Thursday marked 50 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law. Medicare provides health insurance for people aged 65 and older; Medicaid covers low-income families and individuals. The group of advocates stood outside of the Silvio O. Conte Federal Building to push for expansion of Medicare and to celebrate that it has provided health support for millions of Americans in the last half century.
"Most of us want affordable health care and we want to make it accessible for everybody," said Massachusetts League of Women Voters co-President Jean Cherdack.
Dr. Henry Rose performs dialysis at Berkshire Medical Center. He said patients of every political party never complain that the government is paying for the procedure. In 1972, Republic President Richard Nixon expanded the program started under Democratic leadership. Rose said "bipartisan" efforts to improve the program has been done and should be done again.
Rose called for at least expanding the program to those who are aged 60. The group also supported the program paving the road for a single-payer system.
"We pledge to work with communities and policy makers to finish the job," Shepard-Blue said.
U.S. Sen. Edward Markey wasn't in attendance but sent a prepared statement re-affirming his conviction to strengthen and protect the program.
"I will continue to fight against any efforts to end Medicare and Medicaid to ensure their promise for future generations. I have long been an advocate for keeping the Medicare program fully funded and ensuring that the program is reaching its goals in providing beneficiaries with quality and comprehensive health care that will improve quality of life," Markey wrote. 
He added that he wrote a provision in the Affordable Care Act known as the Independence at Home program to help chronically sick seniors received coordinated care in their homes.
The group held signs pushing for an expansion of the program.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal also issued a statement saying he too will continue to support the program. 
"As a member of the committee that has jurisdiction over these programs in Congress, I have a long legislative history of fighting to preserve, protect, and expand Medicare and Medicaid," Neal wrote.
"In my opinion, providing health insurance to the elderly and disabled is a reflection of our values as a nation."
Mayor Daniel Bianchi issued a proclamation from the city recognizing the program. Before the program was put in place, families emptied their life savings to pay for health care, the mayor said.
"Now people can receive health care as they get older and doing so in a much more humane manner," Bianchi said, calling the program a "lifeline" for millions of Americans.
Pittsfield has the highest percentage of retirees in the state and the largest employer is Berkshire Medical Center, so the Medicare program has a tremendous impact on the city.
State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier prepared a statement saying the program not only helps provide health care coverage but also helps families from falling into poverty. 
"Medicare has sharply reduced poverty among seniors and significantly improved the financial security of their families," Farley-Bouvier wrote. "It has reduced health disparities related to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. We can't even imagine our country without Medicare today."

Tags: anniversary,   health insurance,   medicare/medicaid,   

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Pittsfield School Committee Updated on Beginning of School Year

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Pittsfield Public Schools has started the new school year with more than 5,000 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through Grade 12.
School administrators provided an update the beginning of the year at Wednesday's School Committee meeting.
"I would like to welcome everybody back and it is hard to believe we are at the start of another school years but here we are," Chairwoman Katherine Yon said at the meeting broadcast on Pittsfield Community Television.
Superintendent Jason McCandless thanked the many people who helped prepare the schools for incoming students as well as community members who help make the Pittsfield Public Schools home.
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