Philadelphia, Pa. – The Nov. 4 election will provide Philadelphians the opportunity to change the city’s Home Rule Charter so that the Department of Health is directed to develop a plan for universal health care coverage for all residents. The ballot question states, “Health care is an essential safeguard of human life and dignity, and there is an obligation for the City of Philadelphia to ensure that every resident is able to realize this fundamental right.”

The Philadelphia Area Committee to Defend Health Care (PACDHC) has worked tirelessly for years to get this referendum on the ballot. Dr. Walter Tsou, the former health commissioner of Philadelphia, is a founding member of PACDHC.

Sylvia Metzler, a member of the committee, said, “We collected 20,000 signatures on petitions and presented them to City Council and Mayor Street. The City Council unanimously passed a resolution and now the voters will decide.” Currently at least 43 million Americans have no health care coverage. About 94,000 of them live in Philadelphia. The uninsured have higher mortality rates and are more likely to require emergency care and hospitalization.

The inability to pay for rising medical costs accounts for one-third to one-half of all bankruptcies in the U.S. Despite spending 40 percent more per capita on health care than any country in the world, the United States is the only industrialized country without a health care system that covers all its citizens.

“A ‘yes’ vote would carry tremendous weight so that our elected officials can carry the results to the state and federal governments, showing that Philadelphians want universal health care,” said school nurse Diane Mohney.

The author can be reached at