As Congress wrestles over the parameters of a health care bill, amidst maddened catcalls of 'death panels' and 'socialism!', I am reminded of the experience of John Black, an old trade unionist, revolutionary activist and journalist.
Black, a fervent supporter of the Cuban Revolution, joined the Venceremos Brigades, an annual trek of foreigners to the island, who assisted in harvesting the sugar crop and other agricultural work.
Although he was in his mid-to-high seventies at the time, Black did his part, until the searing tropical heat, or perhaps the work (or both) took its toll.
Black was taken to a nearby hospital, and received what he called "excellent treatment." As he was leaving, he reached for his wallet, and began pulling out some bucks. The doctor looked at him quizzically -- and then told him to put his money away.
"We treated you because you were sick, Senor," the doctor explained, "Not for the money."
These words blew Black away, and this experience with socialist medicine moved him deeply.
What is even more remarkable is that Cuba was doing this during its 'Special Period:, a time of economic chaos when its biggest trading partner, the Soviet Union, stopped bartering things for things (as in oil for sugar, for example) and began demanding cold cash for trade.
As of 2006, Cuba had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $45 billion dollars--about the same as the Congo, or the Sultanate of Oman ($44.1bn).
The GDP measures the market value of goods and services purchased within a nation over a given period of time -- usually a year.
Do you want to know what the U.S. GDP was for 2007?
Over 13 trillion dollars. 13 trillion.
Guess which country provides free medical care?
The richest nation in earth's history can't agree on how to insure that its citizens get good health care, balking over the economic interests of insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
One of the poorest nations on earth (Cuba) not only provides free, universal health care, but it provides well-trained, humanistic doctors to developing and poor countries all over the world (in fact, there are more Cuban doctors helping people overseas, than there are from the UN's World Health Organization (WHO).
We need to stop rapping about so-called Health Care: and call it what it is: Wealth Care.