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Tuesday November 30, 2021

Lessons from Cuba

By Don Fitz
September 04, 2020

As a coup de grâce to the Bernie Sanders campaign Joe Biden declared that he would veto Medicare-for-All. This could drive a dedicated health care advocate to relentlessly pursue Med-4-All as a final goal. However, it is not the final goal. It should be the first step in a complete transformation of medicine which includes combining community medicine with natural medicine and health-care-for-the-world.

Contrasting Cuban changes in medicine during the last 60 years with the US non-system of medical care gives a clear picture of why changes must be all-encompassing. The concept of Medicare-for-All is deeply intertwined with attacks on Cuba’s global medical ‘missions’ and the opposite responses to Covid-19 in the two countries.

Immediately after the 1959 revolution Cubans began the task of spreading medical care to those without it. This included a flurry of building medical clinics and sending doctors to poor parts of cities and to rural areas, both of which were predominantly black.

As the revolution spread medicine from cities to the country, it realized the need to expand medical care across the world. This included both sending medical staff overseas and bringing others to Cuba for treatment. Cuba spent 30 years redesigning its health care system, which resulted in the most comprehensive community-based medicine in the world.

Throughout the expansion of health care, both inside the country and internationally, Cuban doctors used ‘allopathic’ medicine (based largely on drugging and cutting, which is the focus of US medical schools). But they simultaneously incorporated traditional healing and preventive medicine, as well as respecting practices of other cultures.

Today, the most critical parts of the Cuban health care system include (1) everyone receives health care as a human right, (2) all parts are fully integrated into a single whole which can quickly respond to crises, (3) everyone in the country has input into the system so that it enjoys their collective experiences and (4) health care is global.

In contrast, the call for Medicare-for-All by the left in Democratic Party is a demand for Allopathy-for-US-Citizens. It would extend corporate-driven health care, but with no fundamental change towards holistic and community medicine. Though a necessary beginning, it is a conservative demand which does not recognize that a failure to go forward will inevitably result in market forces pushing health care backward.

There is already a right-wing effort to destroy Medicare and Medicaid in any form and leave people to only receive medical treatment they can pay for. It is part of the same movement to destroy the US Post Office and eliminate Social Security. It is funded by the same sources trying to get rid of public education except for a few schools that will prepare the poor to go to prison or be unemployed.

Excerpted from: ‘What Can We Learn From Cuba? Medicare-for-All is a Beginning, Not the End Point’

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