If Cuba’s health care system is so great, it’s not clear why Minnesota Congressman and DNC Vice Chairman Keith Ellison doesn’t go there for his own care.
While defending Obamacare and opposing changes Republicans want to make to the failing program, Ellison held up as positive examples the health care systems of Cuba, and perhaps more shockingly, that of the Democrats’ favorite boogeyman: Russia.
“Why is it that countries like Cuba or Canada or Russia or a lot of places in this world spend half what we spend per capita and they got better health outcomes than we do?” Ellison asked.
“And the reason is our system is not designed to keep people healthy. It’s not designed to keep them well,” he said.
“It’s designed to make certain corporations a lot of money.”
He didn’t identify the supposed nefarious corporations innovating and improving health care for Americans.
But is Cuba so great?
The Washington Examiner reported last year:
In Cuba, there are really two healthcare systems: One for visiting foreigners (who pay cash) and one for ordinary Cubans (it’s free!). The quality healthcare enjoyed by Castro and his fellow Cuban elites is similar to the former.
Some say the model for ordinary Cubans is efficient. Cuba spends only 11 percent of its GDP on healthcare, while the United States spends 17 percent. Perhaps the Cuban system saves money by requiring patients to bring their own bed sheets and light bulbs. Turns out it’s also a budget saver if you don’t update your facilities or practice basic hygiene. Sometimes you get what you pay for.
But wait — don’t Cubans enjoy similar life expectancy as Americans? And isn’t it true that Cubans actually have lower infant mortality rates? Yes, these things are true, but these are terrible metrics to gauge the quality of healthcare provided.
The paper notes the U.S. would have the lowest infant mortality rate in the world, “if countries used our methods for measuring infant mortality — but they don’t.”
Cuba often requires women with high-risk pregnancies are often encouraged to get abortions, according to the Examiner.
And no, Russia’s is no better.
Widespread distrust of state medicine has also resulted in Russians spending millions of dollars every year on so-called magical healers. “It is often the case that people with life-threatening illnesses choose to first turn to alternative forms of medicine. When they eventually visit a doctor, it is already too late,” says Yury Zhulev, a spokesman for the Russian Patients Association. Experts at the Russian Academy of Sciences say there are about 800,000 occult and faith healers operating in the country, compared with 640,000 registered doctors.
If the litmus test of a state health care system is the willingness of members of the political elite to place their own health and that of their loved ones in its hands, then Russia fails miserably. Unlike in many Western European countries, where ministers and other government officials routinely use their nation’s health services, political leaders in Russia often jet abroad for medical care. In 2013, Pavel Astakhov, then Russia’s top official for child welfare, gave a candid answer when asked why his wife had given birth in the south of France rather than in Russia. “I was concerned about my wife and future child,” he replied. “I couldn’t take the risk.”
Who wants to pay for Keith Ellison’s plane ticket to get his health care in Russia?