The Cuban health care system has been a debate for a long time. Some thinking it is the model for how the world should handle heath care and some believing the care is subpar compared to others. Depending on which aspects you choose to focus on could sway you decision either way.
The Cuban heath care system is a national system run by the government. This system emphasizes the idea that health is not a business opportunity, it is a human right and the responsibility of all people. Unlike other countries that work under a national health care systems, no one pays for their health care. There are no private hospitals, clinics or care. There is no opportunity to pay for better health care even if you had the money to do so unless under the table which is illegal. This system is a hierarchy, and tiers of power look over each other. From family care physicians to work teams to polyclinics to hospitals to the medical institute, each role plays a part in the care of the society as a whole.
However, with the U.S. Embargo still in play, medical supplies in Cuba are extremely limited. Medications and technology have been scarce for decades now. Medications such as Aspirin are even rare and found on the black market. With the Democracy Act of 1992, U.S. took control over who could sell medical resources to Cuba. Foreign subsidiaries which did business with the U.S. including, using their patented products and using U.S. resources could not sell to Cuba. Medical supplies became nearly impossible to get and if they could be purchased, it was at a hefty charge due to having limited suppliers and the cost of shipping. With limited supplies, sanitary issues, and lack of needed equipment and technology, it is hard for physicians to take care of patients as needed, but here are some ways they work to prevent the need for medical attention.
A major difference between the Cuban and American system in the focus on preventative care. Cuba runs a "Continuous Assessment and Risk Evaluation (CARE)" program which consists of primary care physicians meeting with the families they consult, obtaining information about their lives and their health (risk factors) and creating intervention plans to help reduce the possibility of illness. This occurs yearly. If a patient has a chronic illness, they are visited every three months to check on progress. They also hold health education programs for the public, publicity campaigns for wellness and health and promote physical health as well as psychological and social health. Overall they have a system ready to take care of their populations, however, the lack of resources makes this difficult. Regardless of the struggles, Cuba has found a way to provide some of the most impressive health statistics not only in the Caribbean islands but in the world.
The country faces a lot of criticisms about the low pay of their medical staff, the poor facilities available and the concerns for the freedom to choose physicians and location of care. However, some may consider this a lack of freedom... crippling debt doesn't feel like freedom to most Americans. Medical debt is the number 1 reason for bankruptcy in the U.S. We spend about 15x more on each person pre year on health care but we reach about the same health statistics.
No system is perfect but it is smart to learn what works and implement it, not for any other reason but for the well-being of all people.
Esposito, C. L., Gilbert, J., Ciampa, A., & Markman, J. (2017). Against All Odds: Cuba Achieves Healthcare for All--An Analysis of Cuban Healthcare. Journal Of The NewYork State Nurses Association, 45(1), 29-38.