James Hamblin at The Atlantic:
Cuba has long had a nearly identical life expectancy to the United States, despite widespread poverty. The humanitarian-physician Paul Farmer notes in his bookPathologies of Power that there’s a saying in Cuba: “We live like poor people, but we die like rich people.” Farmer also notes that the rate of infant mortality in Cuba has been lower than in the Boston neighborhood of his own prestigious hospital, Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s.
All of this despite Cuba spending just $813 per person annually on health care compared with America’s $9,403.
The difference comes back to the basic fact that in Cuba, health care is protected under the constitution as a fundamental human right. The U.S. protects unlimited firearms and freedom from quartering soldiers but does not guarantee health care. Instead we compromise, taking inefficient and expensive half-measures to rescue people in serious peril.
As a poor country, Cuba can’t afford to equivocate and waste money on health care. Much advanced technology is unavailable. So the system is forced instead to keep people healthy. This pressure seems to have created efficiency.