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Cuba Can Teach Us About Healthcare
As we excitedly wait for film maker Michael Moore's new masterpiece,"Sicko," I decided to do some research on Cuba's healthcare system.
"Sicko" spotlights the negligent U.S. healthcare system. In a brilliant example of contrast, Moore takes 911 fire fighters and rescue workers with life threatening lung problems their health insurance policies refused to cover, first to the U.S. Post Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where care was refused; then to Havana, where the doctors there happily treated them.
50,000 people are without healthcare insurance in the United States. Many of those who are insured are under insured. The job of the insurance companies is to deny claims and services to their clients, whether they admit it, or not.
According to Health Care Now, the U.S. ranked 58 in the provision of healthcare worldwide. More than 50% of American bankruptcies are the result of inability to pay for medical emergencies.
The United States has aggressively attempted and consistently failed to destroy the communist government of Fidel Castro, most recently through an ongoing blockade of goods and services into that country.
Due to the pressure the U.S. has exerted on other countries to stop their trade with Cuba, Cuba has been forced to request higher prices for goods and services, including medicine. In one year, Cuba had to pay an extra 45 million dollars for pharmaceuticals, which is 80% to 140% more than other buyers of medicine, according to Medi-Cuba, the Cuban firm that imports medicine and human technology.
Nevertheless, Cuba continues to offer free and comprehensive healthcare to all her citizens.
In addition, since 1963, Cuba has exported its exemplary healthcare service around the world, sending doctors and its own technological advancements in medicine to countries throughout Latin America and Africa.
Cuba provided much needed medical support after the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, Pakistan. Fidel Castro offered to lend medical support after the devastation following Hurricane Katrina. Medical Personnel were packed and ready to go.
Unfortunately, the U.S. chose to play politics over the saving of lives.
Cuba trains international students at its medical schools. After Hurricane George and Mitch plummeted Central America and the Caribbean, Cuban Doctors rushed to the disaster zone, as was their practice for similar acts of Mother Nature.
When it was time to go back to Cuba, the team of doctors saw a need for posting doctors in several of these countries in order to train local people in medicine.
Thus the Havana-based Latin American School of Medicine or ELAM, was born, offering $10,000 scholarships for free medical training.
The Program has grown to 22,000 students from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the United States. The students attend ELAM and 28 other medical schools across Cuba. The students represent all ethnic groups, 51% are women, and they come from 30 countries.
A young person from inner city Bronx who chooses to take part in this program, forinstance, must promise to take her expertise back to the neighborhood she came from.
350,000 people now work in the healthcare field in Cuba, serving a population of 11 million people. Everyone has access to doctors, nurses, specialists and medicines. A doctor and nurse team oversees every neighborhood.
House calls are routine. The wisdom of treating a patient holistically, knowing a patient's family and her environment, is crucial to successful treatment.
Doctors and nurses in Cuba are trained in acupuncture, herbal treatments, massage and other natural health modalities, as well, something lacking in American healthcare.
The exportation of Cuban healthcare is a Peace Project that we all can learn from.
Before Cuba sent doctors to Pakistan, relations between these two countries were not harmonious. But now, the relationship is "magnificent," says Dr Ceballos, a Cuban physician.
The investments in healthcare missions "are resources that prevent confrontation with other nations," Dr Ceballos explains. "The solidarity with Cuba has restrained aggressions of all kinds."
And in a statement that acknowledges Cuba's vulnerabilities on the global stage, Dr. Ceballos explains, "It's infinitely better to invest in peace than to invest in war."
A SINGLE PAYOR PLAN IN PENNSYLVANIA
"Family and Business Healthcare Security Act of 2007" is a single payor healthcare plan currently being set forth in the state of Pennsylvania where I live. It may prove to be the prototype healthcare plan for every state in the union.
Michael Moore's "Sicko" has opened the debate. Now we must get active and change the world.
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