by Las Vegas Review-Journal Editorial Board, July 29, 2022
The less you know about socialized medicine in Cuba the easier it is to praise it.
Cuba is facing a surge in dengue, a viral disease carried by mosquitoes. It can cause fever rash and vomiting — and, in some cases, death. This outbreak has increased the demand for medical services.
Cuba, of course, has government-run health care. Health care is a “right.” For decades, American leftists have praised the Cuban medical system as an enlightened medical system as an enlightened beacon that the United States should emulate.
“If there’s one thing they do right in Cuba, it’s health care,” left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore once said. “And there’s very little debate about that.”
Mr. Moore’s movie “Sicko” portrayed Cuban health care favorably. The message was that the American system should be more like Cuba’s.
Surely then, those with dengue are receiving prompt and adequate medical care. Wrong.
For one, it’s impossible to know how severe the dengue outbreak is. There’s a shortage of testing supplies. The hospitals in this modern marvel also seem to be lacking almost everything, according to news reports.
Patients must bring their own sheets. Hospitals lose power daily. Pharmacies lack more than 140 medicines or about 40 percent of common drugs. Many hospitals don’t have running water. Nurses and doctors routinely lack supplies, such as gloves and catheters, that Americans take for granted.
“Stop saying there’s nothing (to treat her); I need you to see my daughter,” one mother shouted at a packed Cuban emergency room, as reported by the Miami Herald. “My daughter had convulsions, and you keep referring her from one place to another.”
In another case, a man died waiting for an ambulance to transport him to the hospital. He was 26 years old and needed a transfusion.
According to many Cuban doctors “and others with firsthand experience practicing medicine in Cuba, the island nation’s health care system is a catastrophe,” Reason magazine reported in April.
There are many takeaways. For instance, declaring that people have a right to a service or goods doesn’t make it magically appear. To provide health care, the government must take from other people. That can be in the form of high taxes or below-market wages for doctors. In 2015, Cuba increased the top pay rate for doctors to $67 a month.
That’s why government can guarantee only what are called “negative” rights, such as free speech or property rights. To provide “positive” rights that impose an obligation on others, the government must redistribute earnings or labor.
In fact, Cuba’s government-run health care system suffers from the usual pathologies of such systems — and has the additional burden of having been destroyed by communist ideology. Perhaps the most obvious lesson is not to take advice on improving health care in the United States from people who believe propaganda from communist dictators.