By Nick Wagner
PITTSTON TWP. — On July 30, 1965, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law. Fifty years later, Medicare’s beneficiaries are celebrating.
In lieu of the 50th birthday, members of the PA Alliance for Retired Americans and local International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) 109 retirees threw a birthday bash at Savo’s Pizza in Pittston Township on Monday. The group came together to share thoughts and ideas, as well as a lunch and birthday cake.
The event was part of the Alliance’s “Medicare Turns 50” campaign, which celebrates Medicare being signed into law 50 years ago.
Weinreich and her husband, Irv, along with ILGWU President Shirley Grabosky of Pittston and Vice President Gina Russo of Duryea, were on hand during the event. Irv is a VFW Post Commander from Allentown.
The group is lobbying the government on several issues concerning Medicare. It opposes the proposition to turn Medicare into a voucher system. This would take away traditional Medicare and replace it with a limited stipend to purchase insurance in the private marketplace.
“If they do that, we would get so much money and when that is gone we wouldn’t be able to get more done,” Weinreich said.
The organization also is fighting for the Medicare age to remain the same. Currently, those 65 and older can receive Medicare. However, Congress has had proposals that would add two years to that and make it 67.
Weinreich herself needed a part-time job to take care of her health insurance once she retired.
“We don’t want them to raise the age,” she said. “If you work in a factory or on the road, you can’t work until you’re 70.”
Over the past several years, ILGWU has volunteered for several different causes, including “Fight for $15,” which benefits food workers all over the country to fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.
Grabosky said the local ILGWU does volunteering throughout the Wyoming Valley. They’ve stuffed stockings for the United Way, volunteered at polling places and stuffed envelopes during elections. The group also educates people at Kirby Park and the Wilkes-Barre Farmers Market throughout the summer.
Grabosky also said the group gives money to the library and has a scholarship fund, which allowed graduates to receive anywhere between $200 and $500.
“We’re not only fighting for ourselves, we’re fighting for you,” Weinreich said. “You guys worked just as hard as we did. Some people need that Social Security, and that’s all people have sometimes.”
The Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans has over 300,000 members and 150 local affiliates across the Commonwealth. The organization’s mission is to educate the public about retiree issues, and organize seniors to advocate for their interests in Harrisburg and Washington. To learn more, visit www.pennretiredamericans.org.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick