Castro Care In Crisis: Will Lifting The Embargo On Cuba Make Things Worse?
August 16, 2010
Cuba is a Third World country that aspires to First World medicine and health. Any achievements have come at tremendous financial and social cost, says Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for health at the Council on Foreign Relations.
- The Cuban government's 2008 budget of $46.2 billion allotted $7.2 billion (about 16 percent) to direct health care spending.
- Only Cuba's expenditures for education exceeded those for health, and Cuba's health costs are soaring as its aging population requires increasingly expensive chronic care.
Cuba's economic situation has been dire since 1989, when the country lost its Soviet benefactors and its economy experienced a 35 percent contraction. Today, Cuba's major industries -- tourism, nickel mining, tobacco and rum production, and health care -- are fragile. Cubans blame the long-standing U.S. trade embargo for some of these strains and are wildly optimistic about the transformations that will come once the embargo is lifted. Overlooked in these dreamy discussions of lifestyle improvements, however, is that Cuba's health care industry will likely be radically affected by any serious easing in trade and travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba, says Garrett:
- Its public health network could be devastated by an exodus of thousands of well-trained Cuban physicians and nurses.
- For-profit U.S. companies could transform the remaining health care system into a prime destination for medical tourism from abroad.
The very strategies that the Cuban government has employed to develop its system have rendered it ripe for the plucking by the U.S. medical industry and by foreigners eager for affordable, elective surgeries in a sunny climate. In short, although the U.S. embargo strains Cuba's health care system and its overall economy, it may be the better of two bad options, says Garrett.
Source: Source: Laurie Garrett, "Castrocare in Crisis: Will Lifting the Embargo on Cuba Make Things Worse?" Foreign Affairs, August 2010.
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