Monday, March 4, 2013


As Americans, we are taught that healthcare, like everything else about the United States, is the best of the best in the world. The theory of American exceptionalism that conservatives and tea party aficionados claim as their own, has actually been around for as long as, well, as long as the United States of America has been in existence.

However, it is not until you step outside the country that you understand that American exceptionalism in most instances is political propaganda designed to keep citizens content and under control.  Frankly, America's healthcare system sucks.  America's healthcare system is designed to benefit insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and health care facilities and doctors in that order. The patient, namely us, don't even figure into the mix except as the main source of revenue. Heaven help you if you can't pay or need a procedure that the insurance company, not your doctor, considers too costly. The only option is to die.

The advent of the Affordable Health Care Law, otherwise known as Obamacare seemingly signaled the end of this backward, top-down system. But big money makers like this take a long time to die in the USA and healthcare as we know it is still hanging on despite the fact that most citizens favor a single payer health care system more like what is working in Cuba, except that nobody pays for healthcare in Cuba.
Santiago de Cuba

CastroCare is state run healthcare and everyone has it. It is free. Clinics are situated in every neighborhood and I was told by the doctors at the clinic that there is a physician and at least two nurses for every 150 families. All minor stuff, checkups, exams, minor emergency care, babies born, are done at the clinics. Major medical procedures and life threatening emergencies are done by bigger hospitals nearby. It should also be noted that Cuba encourages the use of natural remedies, accupuncture as well as other forms of what we would call alternative medicines.  Doctors in Cuba don't just find a big pharma created pill to treat anyone and everyone. If a cure can be affected naturally, it is the one used. When doctors finish their rounds at the clinics, they make house calls. For real!

Much of the daily procedure done is preventive medicine. In other words, if a diet change is needed or a young girl needs instruction about birth control, or she's had a child and the baby needs to be breast fed. These things are handled by the clinic personnel, who then follow up when necessary.

It should be noted that Cuba has one of the lowest teen birth rates in the western hemisphere. Much lower than the United States. Their health care system seems to be built around what is good for the people and grounded in reality instead of pseudo scientific/religious beliefs, put forth by out of touch xenophobes and religious fanatics.

Women get full and complete health care, as do men. The inequality of being able to buy Viagra but not birth control does not happen in Cuba.

We were told by doctors during our tour that Cuba does not have a drug problem nor alcoholic problem. In answer to our questions we were told that putting kids on drugs like Ritalin to control behavior or adults on sedative type drugs is also not done, mainly because there is no need for them. This is an official state mandated answer, and we made note of it as such. We were also aware of the official party representative in our midst who toured with us throughout the clinic, quietly watching us as we observed them. It was amicable and understandable given the on going adversary situation between our two countries.

We were told by our tour guide that doctors in Cuba make around $1600 per month, which doesn't begin to compare with what doctors consider a living wage in the US. Our tour guides also requested that we not breach the conversation with monetary questions and so we didn't. 

Neighborhood Clinic in Santiago de Cuba

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