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An important difference between the healthcare system in Cuba and that of other countries is that medical care on the island is regarded as a fundamental right of its citizens and is written into the Cuban constitution. In contrast, the healthcare system in the US treats patients as paying customers and not as people in need of its services. This ideological difference goes a long way in explaining the quality of Cuban medical care.
Though Cuba’s revolutionary socialism created the ideological conditions for great healthcare by making it intrinsic to its government, there are other explanations for why Cuban people sustain their good health. Cuban doctors focus on preventative medicine in order to stop any illness before it starts and to prevent complications if and illness is already present. Citizens also don’t have to worry about the costs of visiting a doctor for even minor complaints because these visits are completely free of charge.
It’s already obvious that the healthcare on this island is great, but statistics also reflect how Cuba compares with developed countries: Cuban citizens have a life expectancy of 77 years for men and 81 years for women, which closely matches the United Kingdom’s 79 years for men and 83 years for women. The country is able to provide one doctor for every 150 Cuban citizens, which is an outstanding ratio that surpasses that of many developed nations. However, critics argue that this ratio exists at the cost of Cuban doctors earning low salaries of approximately $60 a month.
Doctors can earn higher salaries if they work abroad on one of the many humanitarian missions that Cuba has been a part of since 1963. In 2015 there were 37,000 Cuban medical employees working in 77 countries around the world, earning billions of dollars per year for the government. Perhaps this is another explanation for why the quality of Cuba’s doctors is so good: they earn precious foreign currency for a cash-strapped government struggling against a United States trade embargo.