An essay contrasting health care systems in the United States and Cuba is probably, knowing the ideological predispositions of the average teacher, intended to exaggerate the attributes of Cuba’s system while denigrating the quality of health care in the United States. Since the revolution that overthrew Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Cuba has been run by a Marxist dictatorship personified by long-time ruler Fidel Castro. Upon assuming power, Castro set about attempting to spread pro-communist, anti-U.S. insurgencies throughout what was known during the Cold War as the Third World, starting with places like Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania and throughout Latin America and Africa. Domestically, Castro, his brother Raul, and their allies in the now-ruling Communist Party imposed a harsh totalitarian form of government that, on the surface, seemingly had at least one major advantage. The Castro regime instituted a universal health care system that made medical care available to all Cubans for little to no cost. Since then, the Cuban model of universal health care has widely trumpeted as the greatest achievement of the revolutionary movement. Left unsaid, however, is the fact that universal health care in Cuba was rigidly structured to ensure that only Cuba’s political elite, foreign nationals and Western tourists had access to genuinely good health care. In fact, the Cuban government used quality medical care as a reward to loyal party members while condemning most of the island’s population to substandard levels of care.
Similarly, Castro made a show of dispatching thousands of Cuban doctors to Third World countries in need of such help while, again, depriving his own population of the higher quality of care available to the nation’s elite. The availability of good care for foreigners is an important source of revenue for the government. Tourists receiving medical care in Cuba have been required to pay in cash because the government’s failed economic policies – failures that were illuminated following the collapse of its former source of hard currency, the Soviet Union – leave it perpetually destitute, a situation aggravated but not caused by U.S. economic sanctions imposed in response to Cuba’s support for terrorist organizations, drug traffickers and for its dismal human rights record.
For the purposes of drafting an essay, the teacher or professor probably wants to draw a favorable comparison of Cuba’s health care system to the more capitalistic American system, which similarly favors the wealthy and those with high-quality health insurance plans. If the student wants to apply a superficial level of analysis to this task, then he or she should simply the idea of universal health care and ignore the Cuban regime’s human rights record and the façade of quality health care that conceals a far more dismal reality.
There is ample room for improvement in the way health care is administered in the United States. Physician billing practices, insurance company influence over the rates doctors can charge and be reimbursed, and consumer habits that seriously degrade the quality of their health, such as cigarette smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, dangerous driving practices (e.g., texting; talking on cell phones), etc., all combine for a dysfunctional system that warranted redress. Whether the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) represents the wisest application of federal authorities remains to be seen. It is reasonable to suggest, however, that room for improvement did exist.
The United States was born as an economically and politically free nation. Free market economic practices extended to the way in which Americans receive medical care. In many ways, that system proved worthwhile. The quality of care in terms of exploitation of technological advancements is very good. The issue of questionable billing practices, however (for example, why a medical procedure or medication in the United States costs so much more than in countries in Europe with a comparable level of economic development), remains a valid subject of discussion. To date, however, the American health care industry has been representative of the American economic system and cultural heritage.
There are viable alternative health care systems around the world, for example, in Germany and, sometimes, in Great Britain. Cuba, however, is not a viable alternative model. The American Left’s infatuation with anti-American regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and other locales badly colors its perceptions of Cuba’s health care system. That system is nowhere near as good for the overwhelming majority of Cuba’s population as some in the United States would have you believe.