Righting the Record on Healthcare Utopias

I haven't seen SICKO yet, and look forward to it, but I suspect that Moore's brush strokes are way too broad when it comes to analyzing healthcare in other nations.  My uncle, a physician in Canada, left that country decades ago because he was so frustrated by the healthcare system there, and highly frustrated doctors don't usually provide the best care.  What bothers me is the suggestion that we throw out our system and start all over again, instead of repairing what we have, building on the aspects of our system that do work.  A recent article in Slate by Austan Goolsbee, economics professor at the University of Chicago and one of Barack Obama's economic advisors, addressed this point very neatly. But a spate of articles have begun to appear to "right the record" and balance Michael Moore's praise of other countries' healthcare systems. Let's take Cuban healthcare, which was the also subject of "Salud," a film that premiered last Spring  (click here for the trailer, and hat tip to Pharmalot).  But emigres say that Moore painted far too glowing a picture of Cuban medical care in a June article in the Latin Business Chronicle.  An excerpt below: "In reality, Cuba has three types of health systems, argues Jaime Suchlicki, the director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami and a leading expert on Cuba.  One for the Cuban military, members of the Communist Party and leaders of the government.  A second one is for foreigners who pay in dollars or foreign currency and a third one for the general Cuban population.   "The first two are excellent, with modern equipment and availability of medications," he says. "The third, which is for the majority of the Cubans, is a veritable disaster with poor equipment and few medications and in many instances without the availability of Cuban specialists."  Jorge Salaz ar-Carrillo, a professor of economics at Florida International University and expert on Latin American economies, agrees. While Cuba has a high ratio of family doctors per inhabitant, the actual offer for ordinary Cubans is low.  About half of the doctors are being exported to the poor countries of the world for hard currency (mainly Venezuela), while a similar portion is at the service of the Cuban Armed Forces and their families, he says. "Thus, at present the real availability to the populace is meager," says Salazar-Carrillo. "Cuba does not train the standard proportion of specialists." Click here for the entire article. Business Week just published an article on France's healthcare system that was quite complimentary (but some, such as Jeff Poor who wrote for the Business and Media Institute, and whose article appears here ,would say it was too complimentary). No system is perfect, and ours in the U.S. is extremely flawed.  Let's fix it rather than torpedo it, and elect those who will advance the best policies. Happy Fourth. -AMS