Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro holds up the arm of his brother, Cuba's President Raul Castro, during the closing ceremony of the sixth Cuban Communist Party (PCC) congress in Havana (Photo : Reuters)
Since 1976, Cuba has offered free healthcare to all of its citizens, but recent developments reveal a government sponsored push for austerity due to the unsustainable rising costs involved. Yet, the government's desire to limit unnecessary spending may be a hard sell.
Article 50 of the Cuban constitution reads, "Everyone has the right to health protection and care. The state guarantees this right by providing free medical and hospital care by means of the installations of rural medical service network, polyclinics, hospitals, preventative and specialized treatment centers; by providing free dental care; by promoting the health publicity campaigns, health education, regular medical examinations, general vaccinations and other measures to prevent the outbreak of disease."
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As one of the guiding principles of Fidel Castro's communist regime, free health care has been an accepted part of Cuban life for thirty-six years.
According to Fox News Latino, the Communist Party's newspaper, Granma, published details on how much the government spends on their health care program. The site records a repeated theme in the Party's ads: "Your health care is free, but how much does it cost?"
Phil Peters, a member of the Lexington Institute think tank, states: "Very often the media has been a leading indicator of where the economic reforms are going...My guess is that there's some kind of policy statement to follow, because that's the pattern."
The report shows that the Cuban government spends $190 million a year on medical bills. In 2009, Cuba spent $206 million on the program. This reduction in cost is no doubt related to the cutting of 50,000 non-essential health sector jobs. Doctors themselves are paid a low $25 a month.
It is clear that the Cuban government is walking a tight rope in dealing with its economic woes while remaining true to its guiding principles. Nancy Burke, director to the Cuba Program in Health Diplomacy at the University of California, argues that "It's interesting that the health care system, which has always been touted as a basic human right, is now being put into market terms...It's a real shift, a major shift in the way of thinking about healthcare."