Will Advocates of Government-Run Medicine Regret Better Cuba Relations?

Published December 17, 2014

This morning CNN reported President Obama will be announcing a new Cuba policy, one that lightens sanctions, permits greater travel, and opens business and banking opportunities.

Heartland doesn’t really do foreign policy or international affairs, and if they did I’m probably the last person they’d turn to to comment on this policy change regarding Cuba.

But there is an interesting health care angle. For decades, leftists and advocates of government-run health care have pointed to Cuba as a model. To cite just one recent example, soon-to-be former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin visited the socialist hellhole earlier this year and came back touting the virtues of their health care system.

As serious people understand, however, trusting statistics and propaganda tales offered by brutal tyrannies is maybe not the smartest thing to do.

Offering what is probably a more clear-eyed perspective, here’s John Stossel several years ago addressing Cuban health care and responding the the claims made in filmaker/dupe Michael Moore’s movie Sicko:

Cuban-born Dr. Jose Carro, who interviews Cuban doctors who have moved to the United States, says Moore’s movie lies. Dr. Darsi Ferrer, a human-rights advocate in Cuba, told us that Americans should not believe the claims being made. He describes the Cuban people as “crazy with desperation” because of poor-quality care.

George Utset, who writes The Real Cuba Web site, says Moore and his group were ushered to the upper floors of the hospital, to rooms reserved for the privileged. “They don’t go to the hospital for regular Cubans. They go to hospital for the elite. And it’s a very different condition,” Utset says.

For ordinary Cubans, health care is different.

A YouTube.com video, posted by a woman from Venezuela, purports to show the two forms of health care, one for the privileged who pay in dollars and a far inferior one for regular Cubans.

Moore claims Cubans live longer than Americans. It’s true that a U.N. report claims that. But the United Nations didn’t gather any data. “The United Nations simply reports whatever the government in Cuba reports, so we have no objective way to know what the real statistics are,” Carro says.

Exactly. Communist countries are famous for hiding the truth. Twenty years ago, when I reported from the Soviet Union, officials insisted there were no poor people in Russia, but they refused to let me look for myself.

Why would we believe the Cuban government’s health statistics?

Cuba claims it has low infant mortality, but doctors tell us that Cuban obstetricians abort a fetus when they think there might be a problem. Dr. Julio Alfonso told us he used to do 70-80 abortions a day. And here’s an even more devious way of distorting infant-mortality data: Some doctors tell us that if a baby dies within a few hours of birth, Cuban doctors don’t count him or her as ever having lived…

I’m having trouble tracking it down at the moment, but I recall reading an absolutely horrific report on the state of health care provided average Cuban people, not the elites.

Suffice it to say, if President Obama’s new policies towards Cuba do open up relations substantially and tens of thousands of Americans really do start traveling to Cuba and seeing the real health care system, the left and advocates of government-run health care are likely to need to find a new talking point when it comes to how bad they think health care is here in the United States, because “Cuba does it better” just isn’t going to be believed by most.