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What Cuba Can Teach Us About Health Insurance

Despite a checkered past, Cuba has emerged as a role model for other countries in the healthcare industry. Poverty, the end of Soviet subsidies in 1991, and the ban on trade by the USA hit the country hard, yet Cuba managed to survive it all and emerge as the eighth highest country in North America in terms of Human Development Index. The country has made surprising progress in the fields of healthcare and education. It has also been able to meet the conditions of sustainable development as mentioned by the WWF and happens to be the only country to do so. The most astonishing fact is that the people there don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on healthcare every year.

Here is what other countries including the USA should learn from Cuba in order to improve their healthcare system.

A Foundation Built On Primary Care And Prevention

One of the best features of the Cuban healthcare system is that it emphasizes a lot on preventive care. In countries like the USA, people usually spend big bucks only when they find they are suffering from a disease. But in Cuba, the local people manage to survive on one-tenth of the cost of health insurance in the USA. They have made this possible by making their base the strongest. Primary care and prevention have the widest network, and they work meticulously around the clock in keeping the community free of diseases, supplying vaccination, checking for infectious diseases, encouraging blood donations, and ensuring sanitation checks. These steps taken at the basic level help prevent bigger and graver emergencies.

Personalized Care For Each Community

The Cuban government prides itself in having uniform care throughout the state, but they have also devised a method so that each community can get personalized attention. These communities are assessed yearly based on their social conditions. Though a considerable amount of money goes towards these assessments, the results help the whole healthcare system to run more effectively, and hence it should be considered as a good investment. Each area has its own polyclinic with at least 15 health providers. Social workers, nurses, doctors, psychiatrists, and even specialists arrive weekly to make sure that patients do not have to travel far in order to get treatment. These areas are further divided into communities and each community has its own consulturio comprising of a doctor and a nurse. They divide the patients into four categories:

  1. Those who require just yearly visits since they are healthy and low risk
  2. Those who require 2 to 3 visits since they are at risk
  3. Those who suffer from chronic disease and require at least 3 visits per year
  4. Those who require maximum visit since their status is a bit complicated

The consulturio concentrate on providing individual care during the morning, and the afternoons are reserved for promoting public health, collecting data, visiting houses to address prevention, and a few other activities. Physicians are encouraged to concentrate on an entire community instead of selecting patients. Hence, they can take care of those who try to avoid all kinds of interaction.

Low-Cost Medical Education Facilities

This is another factor that plays a significant part in the healthcare system of Cuba. Since 1964, all medical graduates were encouraged to do at least 2 years of rural service, and this worked well enough that almost every medical student started doing it. Soon, medical students were sent for three years of training in family medicine. Once the training is over, students can go for higher studies and specialize in certain areas. Thanks to this system, Cuba has more doctors per capita than the USA. They also have health care completely free for the citizens.

The system is far from perfect though. The average pay of a doctor is so low that they are forced to take up second jobs in order to make ends meet. Often, primary care center or polyclinics lack basic medicines or supplies. Yet, the Cuban government spends an average of $813 per person annually, where the USA spends more than $9000. Health care is free in Cuba, while people in the USA end up paying thousands for trivial health issues. Maybe it is time to learn a few things from the next door neighbor?


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