Friday, July 20, 2007

A Few Words on SICKO

I saw Michael Moore's movie last week, and while he makes himself an easy target for his critics, you can't dispute the facts about the health care crisis in the US. You may, however, wonder about that segment filmed in Cuba.

I haven't done any research or seen any other information on that clip, but having lived in Cuba, I can attest to the health care in the country. While I doubt anyone could just walk into any pharmacy and find the exact inhaler needed (medicines are in short supplies and pharmacies infamously understocked), I'm sure it exists somewhere and that it costs three pesos (less than fifteen cents).

When I was first in Cuba for the International Student Festival, a group of Americans contracted pink eye. They were whisked away and spent the festival in quarantine with the full treatment, no bill ever produced. When I lived in Cuba I contracted tendinitis in my right hand, which kept me from working (typing on a laptop like I am right now). My boss didn't wonder when I'd be back to work nor pressure me to return early (much to the contrary, I tried persisting and typing even long after it became uncomfortable. This is due to my innate American trait of sacrificing self for your job, even if it made my condition worse, something no Cuba would do, nor people in most first-world countries). Finally, after trying to type with a pencil held between my thumb and forefinger, I gave in and went to the hospital. The diagnosis wasn't rocket science (a doctor looked at my hand and said "tendinitis") and the resulting daily acupuncture treatment was "not the quality I'd receive in the US" (six patients in room, doctor standing over me, cigarette dangling from his mouth, the smoke sometimes obscuring the points where the needles were to go; once, a nurse obviously in training on administering acupuncture, inserted the thing all the way to the hilt -a good two inches into my hand. "Um," I hesitated, "I don't think it's s'pozed to be so deep".
I never received a bill.

Of course, I don't think any American can just show up in Cuba and expect medical treatment like they do in Sicko, though it'd be a wonderful PR stunt if we could. There's supposedly a clinic near the embassy zone that charges a flat $25 per visit, but who would pay it except for Americans, who think $25 to visit the doctor is a good deal?

There are a lot of concepts that Americans in general just can't grasp, and free health care is one of them. Why not? We're the wealthiest nation in the history of world, we can set a man on the moon, you think a tiny project like free universal health care would be a no-brainer.

Ok, that's my rant.

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