Viva La Revolución! Repairing the Relationship between the U.S. and Cuba

This past June, President Donald Trump announced that he desired to renew the economic restrictions previously lifted by the Obama Administration against the island nation of Cuba. Details are thin, but the administration plans to prevent American trade with businesses operated by the Cuban military, which manages roughly 70% of Cuba’s businesses that trade internationally.While the Trump administration made this decision due to political differences, it will ultimately do more harm to our country than good. Besides, communism is becoming more unpopular among the masses in Cuba; the population has demonstrated to be more than open to Obama-era policies that briefly opened the two countries to trade. Furthermore, Cuba’s advancements in the world of medicine could potentially be essential towards solving our nation’s struggles regarding healthcare. Removing American protectionist policies and opening free market relations with the island nation can lead to economic expansion through the dissemination of ideas,  an eventual détente, and  decrease in tensions between the two governments. Cuba’s political system is on the verge of entering a stage of great upheaval. At 86 years old, Raul Castro faces growing health concerns as his regime begins to crumble under growing support of western ideas from the Cuban populace. As told throughout the guideposts of economics, there will always be a market for a product if there is a demand from the consumer. According to a report ran on HBO documentary series VICE, most Cuban citizens have become very pro-American due to the arrival of 1990’s American hip-hop music, which has circulated illegally through old CD-ROM’s and floppy disks. Ironically, this shows a market failure within  a system where goods valued by the consumers are illegal. Ever since Fidel Castro gained power and pushed out American influence, the streets of Cuba have remained frozen in time. As the world was encapsulated by technology and innovation, Cuban citizens have not experienced many major changes in their way of life. As tensions settled and Cuban tourism flourished, its citizens were exposed to modern fashion, technology, and entertainment. Through this exposure, American goods became the most prominent and sought-after products in the market because of their quality and association with democratic ideals. Thus, as the market is flooded with illegal American products, one sees the potential for free market economic growth between the two parties.

In an open market, American companies and products could flood the Cuban mainland, which not only raises the standard of living for the Cuban population, but also gives American companies the opportunity to grow and expand into new markets. Ending the Cuban embargo could allow American companies to invest into an economy that is finally ready to grow after decades of stagnancy. A report from the Brookings institute emphasizes the importance of foreign direct investment from the U.S. and why private American companies must work with the Cuban populace to develop these plans, stating: “Potential investors or business partners should expect their counterparts to want to develop business plans together rather than accepting a fully formed business plan pitched by an outsider. … Main takeaways were the need to show respect and patience for the Cuban way of doing business in order to establish a working relationship before projects can be approved.” Opening the market and allowing free market relations to blossom between private American companies and the Cuban population could easily benefit both sides involved.

As a nation that’s most divisive issue of 2017 has been a healthcare crisis, we are actively ignoring one of the most innovative healthcare systems in the world. Cuba’s small population and lack of diversity compared to the U.S. allows them to focus on certain issues pertaining to the population, but their accomplishments in the world of healthcare could easily translate to the international level. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, Cuba’s life expectancy rate of 78 is almost identical to the United States and its infant mortality rate is lower, despite spending a fraction of what our nation does on healthcare. As Cuba becomes one of our world’s health leaders, the United States continues to get bogged down in a war of rhetoric where no real progress can truly be made. Cuba’s healthcare structure is based on a system of needs and is subsidized by the government. According to the New England Journal of Public Health, patients are classified on a levelled system going from class I to class IV, with I being reserved for critical conditions and IV for easily manageable sicknesses. This system allows for decisive separation of patients that improve efficiency and effectiveness for Cuban hospitals. Healthcare is free and available to all, and healthcare professionals make annual visits to patients. Consequently, the American public Health Association claims that Cuba has mastered the primary care system, successfully removing the congestion in its hospitals, reducing total visits that involve the emergency room from 80.2% in 1970 to 43.3% in 2010.

The rise of primary care centers across the U.S. have given Americans unprecedented convenience and access when seeking medical services. Although these centers are privately owned and used primarily for emergency visits and common illnesses, public funding could be used to provide a wider variety of care to patients with otherwise limited access to healthcare. One idea could involve the government giving tax breaks to private hospitals building satellite primary care centers to increase convenience and access to these services. The U.S. has had issues with healthcare access and emergency room congestion in the past. According to a report from the Heritage institute, the number of emergency room visits in the U.S. increased by 18% from 1994 to 2004 while the total number of open hospital beds and emergency department decreased. Urgent care centers have risen in prominence in order to combat this, but the definition of what is truly an emergency should be clearly defined to properly assess where the patient needs to go. Consequently, the Department of Health could implement a variant of the Cuban class system and promote health literacy amongst the American people, thus easing congestion in American emergency rooms.  

Furthermore, Cuba’s advancements in healthcare have created a free market of Cuban physicians around the globe.  Cuba’s government-controlled medical school, ELAM, has a class size more than 20 times the size of Ivy League Medical schools in the United States. The University recruits candidates from around the world and teaches each foreign candidate Spanish in their first semester. Furthermore, the six year program assures the development of competent doctors to work around the world. The influx of multilingual, well-educated doctors into the United States consequently open markets across the country that were not were not accessed before, especially with populations in the Southwest that primarily speak Spanish. Furthermore, the influx of Cuban doctors has sizably impacted the scope of influence for the American Red Cross, who now use more Cuban-trained doctors than any other non-American entity. Clearly, the Cuban healthcare system has already begun to make its way onto the American market, which gives a preview of how beneficial a free market system of ideas can be to all parties.

The dissemination of ideas between Cuban and American cultures can open markets that haven’t been tapped in decades. The ideas of free trade does not only apply to economics, but also to the exchange of ideas and policy, such as healthcare innovations and classic American capitalism. If both sides engage in fair trade of these ideas and policies, the economies of Cuba and the United States have the potential to benefit. This can be done through the increase of product quality and standard of living in Cuba and potential healthcare policies that can help the United States to work through its own healthcare crisis. Together, the two countries can start a whole new Cuban revolution.

 

Sources:

Campion, Edward, and Stephen Morissey. “A Different Model - Medical Care in Cuba — NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, 24 Jan. 2013, www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1215226.

Ruble, Kayla. “Cuba's Renewed Relationship with the U.S. Could Revolutionize Cancer Treatments.” VICE News, 23 Oct. 2016, news.vice.com/en_us/article/ev5gkp/cubas-renewed-relationship-with-the-u-s-could-revolutionize-cancer-treatments.

Keck, C. William. “The Curious Case of Cuba.” The Curious Case of Cuba | AJPH | Vol. 102 Issue 8, 11 July 2012, ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2012.300822.

Davis, Caitlyn, and Ted Piccone. “Sustainable Development: The Path to Economic Growth in Cuba.” Brookings, Brookings, 28 June 2017, www.brookings.edu/research/sustainable-development-the-path-to-economic-growth-in-cuba/.

O'Shea, John. “The Crisis in America's Emergency Rooms and What Can Be Done.” The Heritage Foundation, 28 Dec. 2007, www.heritage.org/health-care-reform/report/the-crisis-americas-emergency-rooms-and-what-can-be-done

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