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Universal Health Care Will Destroy America‘s Middle Class

By Jerry A. Kane

Dictator emeritus Fidel Castro has applauded Brother O and his Bread and Circuses administration for advancing universal health care in their takeover of America’s health care system.

“We consider health reform to have been an important battle and a success of his (Obama’s) government. … [T]he government … has approved medical attention for the majority of its citizens, something that Cuba was able to do half a century ago,” Castro wrote in an essay published by Cuba’s mainstream press.

So what does half a century of medical treatment for the majority look like in Cuba? Sicko Michael Moore boasts that Cuban medical treatment is great for everyone, except of course for the average Cuban. For Cuba’s common man “great” means dilapidated hospitals, filthy conditions, neglect, starvation, and 5 percent take-home pay after taxes.

When the Soviet Union stopped supporting Cuba’s economy with $5 billion in annual aid, its health care system hit the skids. The situation has become so bleak that Canadian doctors urge their patients to take “a suitcase full of medical supplies to drop off at a local clinic or hospital” when they vacation on the island. According to a pharmacist from Moron, Cuba, “If you need the most complicated operation, you can get it at a Cuban hospital. But medicines are the problem.”

“We know how difficult life is here, so when we come for a vacation, we always bring a few bottles of antibiotics and Tylenol,” said a Canadian housewife who vacations in Cuba.

“My doctor in Toronto told me that there is nothing available in Cuba, so I came prepared [with tubes of antibiotic cream, aspirin, decongestants and bandages] just in case I needed any of these things for myself. But I am leaving most of what I brought for the maids and the bartender,” added another Canadian vacationer.

Cuba has a three-tiered health care system. The first tier is the “medical tourism” system, designed for tourists who come to Cuba on health tourism packages to obtain treatment at cut-rate prices—a kidney transplant, for example, costs about half as much as one in the U.S.

The Cuban government established the tourist-only hospitals to cater to the thousands of visitors from Latin America and parts of Europe. Tourists pay hard cash for discount prices on botox, liposuction, breast implants, and dental work. Cuban specialists also treat Parkinson’s disease and retinatis pigmentosa, a hereditary disease that causes night blindness.

Tourist hospitals are clean, state-of-the-art facilities well-stocked with the latest equipment and imported medicines. 

“Tourists have everything they need. But for Cubans, it’s different. Unless you work with tourists or have a relative in Miami sending you money, you will not be able to get what you need if you are sick in Cuba. As a doctor, I find it disgusting,” said a pediatrician from Moron.

The second health-care system is for the Cuban “nomenklatura,” i.e., the elites of the communist party, which includes bureaucrats, the military, official artists and writers, and other party cronies. Their health care mirrors the first-world system for medical tourists.

Cuba’s third system is the one for the common people, and it is truly wretched. Hospitals and clinics are unsanitary and falling apart. Surgeons lack basic supplies and must reuse latex gloves. Patients must buy their own sutures on the black market and bring their own bed sheets, soap, towels, food, light bulbs and toilet paper to the hospital. Basic medicines are scarce.

Local pharmacies are neat and spotless, but they lack even the most common items, such as aspirin and rubbing alcohol. However, they do stock a lot of green boxes of herbal diet teas from Spain. Aspirin and common medications can be purchased at government-run dollar stores, but the prices are too high for most Cubans, whose average wage is about $12 a month.

“I haven’t seen aspirin in a Cuban store here for more than a year. If you have any pills in your purse, I’ll take them. Even if they have passed their expiry date,” said a nurse from Moron.

The equipment used in the third tier system is either antiquated or nonexistent. Although Cuban doctors are well trained, they have nothing to work with. When American doctors travel to Cuba on errands of mercy, they take with them as much equipment and supplies as they can carry.

“The hospital conditions are pretty deplorable. … It’s like operating with knives and spoons,” said Dr. Gary Nishioka, an American plastic surgeon, who had just returned from a trip to Cuba.

Although many of the residents of Moron are fortunate because they work in nearby resorts and often receive foreign medications as tips, conditions have deteriorated so badly for most Cubans that diseases such as tuberculosis, leprosy, typhoid, and dengue fever—eradicated years before—have resurfaced among the population.

To finance Cuba’s universal health care system, the government uses the money from its joint-venture operations in manufacturing, tourism, banking, and mineral exploration with foreign companies. About 30,000 Cubans work in these operations and receive 5 percent of their total wages; the Cuban government “reinvests” the other 95 percent for the good of the entire population.

“There is absolutely nothing free about Cuban health care …. Social services are financed from the sweat of the poor Cuban workers,” said Ismael Sambra, president of the Cuban-Canadian Foundation.

Some of the most courageous, admirable, and persecuted people in Cuba are doctors who have rebelled against the government’s health-care injustices as well as other injustices. Renowned neurosurgeon Hilda Molina spoke out against the government’s decision to turn Cuba’s prestigious International Centre for Neurological Restoration into a tourists-only hospital.

“Cubans should be treated the same as foreigners. Cubans have less rights in their own country than foreigners who visit here,” Molina said.

Molina has been branded a counter-revolutionary and banned from practicing medicine in Cuba. She lives in Havana and survives on an allowance from her family abroad. After 15 years of trying to obtain a visa to visit her family in Argentina, she was finally granted permission last June. The government repeatedly refused her request to travel having designated her brain “a national asset.”

The ill effects of universal health care on the average Cuban has been immense. Everyone but the communist elite now has equally deplorable universal health care. Average citizens in the United Kingdom and Canada are also experiencing the collapse of universal health care in their countries. Yet too many middle-class Americans would rather cling to the lies that Brother O and the progressive Democrats tell them about universal health care, than rely on their own eyes to see what has happened to the middle class in the countries that have tried it.

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