By J. Stephen Morrison and Seth Gannon
April 29, 2015 | Health Affairs Blog
The Two Sides Of Cuban Health Care: High-Quality Primary Care …
These opportunities grow out of a special legacy in health care that spans the history of revolutionary Cuba. Free and universal health coverage, with high-quality primary care, has been fundamental to the Castro government’s legitimacy since its first years. It is a true entitlement, expected by the Cuban people, a positive right enshrined quite simply in Cuba’s 1976 Constitution: “Everyone has the right to health protection and care. The State guarantees this right.”
What started in the 1960s with a 750-doctor Rural Medical Service has grown into a network of more than 30,000 family doctors; across the country, each of five hundred “polyclinics” serves as a hub for twenty to forty neighborhood medical stations.After visiting Cuba in fall 2014, cardiovascular surgeon and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist documented impressive primary care:
Patients are seen at least once a year, often in their home[.] Emergencies are addressed immediately. Chronic conditions are identified and managed early.
And this care is provided at no cost. In private conversation with one of the authors, Frist subsequently marveled that not only does the average individual Cuban have a primary physician, that person knows his or her physician by name. That is a fading reality in America, true for only a minority.