[OPE-L] Cuba Has Better Medical Care Than the U.S.

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Wed Apr 26 2006 - 13:59:22 EDT

via portside mailing list .  Maybe I ought to move OPE-L  HQ
to Havana? / In solidarity,  Jerry

Cuba Has Better Medical Care Than the U.S.

by Blake Fleetwood

The Huffington Post - April 23, 2006


Statistics don't lie.

Figures from the World Health Organization clearly show
that The United States lags behind 36 other countries
in overall health system performance ranging from
infant mortality, to adult mortality, to life

20 countries in Europe and four countries in Asia have
a better life expectancy than the U.S. If you are a
male between the ages of 15 and 59, your chances of
dying are higher in the U.S. (140 per thousand) than in
Canada, 95, Costa Rica 127, Chile 134, and Cuba, 138.

The U.S. Health system looks especially dysfunctional
when you consider how much money we spend per capita on
healthcare -- $6,000 plus per year, twice as much as
any other country -- and how little we get for it.

Canada spends $2,163 and boasts a life expectancy of
79.8 years, two and a half years longer than the US.
Their infant mortality rate per thousand is also better
than ours, as is their adult mortality rate.

Switzerland spends about 11% of its Gross Domestic
Product on universal health care for all its citizens,
while the U.S. (with 50 million uninsured this year)
spends 15% of GDP with embarrassing results.

One grand irony, Cuba whose economy has been bankrupt
for the last decade -- food shortages, drug shortages,
chronic unemployment, etc. -- and which annually spends
a miserly $185 per person on health care, has better
infant and adult mortality rates than the US, and has a
life expectancy nearly equal to ours.

Why has our vaunted free enterprise system -- which has
produced such great benefits in delivery of most goods
and services -- failed so completely with regard to
this most fundamental need?

Simple, buyers don't shop for health care. Sick people
don't negotiate with doctors or hospitals or drug
companies. They don't care what it costs; insurance or
the government will pay. This vulnerability has been
exploited and hijacked by greedy doctors, drug
companies, insurers, personal injury lawyers, HMOs, and
hospitals. About 50% of health care funds never even
get to doctors or hospitals -- which themselves run
bloated operations.

Maybe we have finally reached the "Tipping Point". Not
because people are needlessly dying, but because big
business is being crippled by astronomical health

US companies -- with employer funded health plans --
are having a hard time competing in world markets.
General Motors spends more on worker health care
($1,400 per vehicle) than they spend on steel for each
car they produce. "The three big auto makers are "HMOs
on wheels" says Goldman Sachs analyst Gary Lapidus.

Employer funded health insurance is a relic of the past
according to the growing clamor by big business. We
don't want to pay for it any more and the added costs
make our products uncompetitive in world markets.

The new Massachusetts law mandating health insurance --
just as the state requires auto insurance -- is a bold
leap into an uncertain future, but it is an ad hoc
band-aid which hopefully will lead to something more.

The long-term answer is obvious. Adopt a single-payer
system like Canada's. Not socialized medicine. Doctors
would remain private. By cutting out the bureaucracy,
needless lawsuits, and curbing greed, the US could save
50% of the monies now being squandered, more than
enough to cover the 50 million uninsured, according to
a General Accounting Office and Congressional Budget
Office report.

Ironically, we already have a successful single-payer
healthcare program. Medicare, which covers people over
65, has an administrative and overhead cost of just 2%.
Compare this low figure with the $399 billion spent on
administrative middleman services in the free-market
sector of health care last year. The simple step of
data sharing of medical records could save $140 billion
per year according too a recent Federal study.

Critics charge that a single-payer system would lead to
a rationing of medicine and long waits. But we already
ration medicine, not by need, or efficacy of the
treatment, but by how much money you have. If you are
rich, you can have all you want. If you are poor,
unemployed, self-employed, sorry. 18,000 Americans die
each year for lack of care according to the Institute
of Medicine.

The right says that single-payer systems have not been
adequately tested. But this is an obvious pretext by
for-profit interest groups. Single-payer systems have
been worked for many decades in 20 countries around the

The facts are clear: single-payer systems work and they
save money. The Germans, French, Australians, Swiss,
and Canadians all benefit from universal healthcare at
less than half the cost that Americans pay for an
incomplete system. Our for-profit healthcare system is
a gambling scheme with the explicit goal of excluding
the sick.

Good luck Massachusetts. Maybe your example, big
business, and growing outrage will goad the dithering
federal government into action.

Someday, inevitably, America will join the civilized
world and provide universal care. It should be sooner
rather than later.

[Blake Fleetwood graduated from Bard College and did
graduate work at Columbia University. He has also
taught politics at New York University.

He was formerly on the staff of The New York Times and
has written for The New York Times Magazine, New York
Magazine, The New York Daily News, the Wall Street
Journal, USA Today, the Village Voice, Atlantic and the
Washington Monthly on a number of issues. He can be
reached at jfleetwood@aol.com]

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