Consumer-Directed Health Care in Cuba (for Americans)

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year and a quarter since PRI hosted an event to discuss Michael Moore’s SiCKO, his “mockumentary” about the American health-care “system”. I’d kind of forgotten about the whole episode, but now that Mr. Moore’s team is going to be running the country, I thought I should see how things are going at the Havana hospital where he famously brought the 9/11 Ground Zero rescue workers to be treated, when they could not be treated in America.

(Or could they? I should qualify my flip remark about Mr. Moore’s “team” running the country by noting that, in selecting Dr. Sanjay Gupta as his nominee for Surgeon-General, Mr. Obama has chosen a critic of Mr. Moore’s “facts”.)

Well, I am glad to report that Cuba’s most capitalist enterprise appears to be doing fine: Check out its website. The Havana Hospital appears to be a more competitive, patient-centered enterprise than any American general hospital I’ve seen.

It posts prices for its services, reports testimonials, and can schedule surgeries on short notice (three days for open-heart surgery! (How much more navel-gazing are we going to do here in the U.S. about price transparency before we realize that another piece of legislation mandating it is not the solution? Just give the health-care dollars back to the patients and let the hospitals compete for them!)

I’d have to be a fool to think that this hospital provides its (self-reported) world-class services to ordinary Cubans. (When I visited a few years ago, Cubans didn’t even have soap, much less health care.) The target market must be wealthy Americans and residents of other developed countries who are fed up with how the government has messed up their health care.

I doubt I’d ever go to the Havana Hospital, because the profits surely go straight to the Castros. Nevertheless, if the Cuban government can allow a hospital to serve American patients without regulations that keep the patient out of the equation, can the U.S. government please do the same. Start by getting rid of Medicare’s fixed prices, Stark laws, and other such nonsense.

Maybe we’ll get lucky in 2009, and Mr. Obama’s health-care team will learn the only real lesson from Michael Moore’s otherwise silly movie.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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