Florida and Cuba: So Near Geographically But So Far Healthcare-wise

by Bobby Reyes

FEMA Disaster Medical Assistance Team | Photo by Jocelyn Augustino via Wikimedia Commons

Part L of the “EDEN America” Series

Florida’s Miami-Dade County is the home of many immigrants and refugees from Cuba, and almost all of them are now American citizens. Americans of Cuban descent are active in politics, and Marco Rubio, the Republican member of the US Senate and a former presidential aspirant, is their “poster boy.”

Public knowledge is that Cuba’s northernmost point is only about 100 miles or so south of Florida across the Strait of Florida. Many Floridians claim Cuba is 90 miles south of Key West, Florida’s southernmost point. Yes, Cuba is that near.

But healthcare-wise, Cuba is probably a continent so far. According to the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Cuba, whose economy has been bankrupt for the last decade (and even to date) –- food shortages, drug shortages, chronic unemployment, etc. — and which annually spends a miserly $185 per person on health care, has better infant and mortality rates than the US, and has a life expectancy nearly equal to ours. The PNHP cited pre-pandemic statistics that were partly based on the World Health Organization (WHO) and their data starting from 2006.

In Florida, per-capita healthcare spending ranges from less than $1,100 to more than $3,600. Florida spent $1,451 per capita on its residents’ health in 2018, the eighth-lowest amount of money of all states. Florida’s health expenditure budget in 2018 totaled $31.2 billion.

This column earlier mentioned that Ty Javellana told this writer that, like so-many Floridians, he is so disappointed by Florida’s ranking in Healthcare (#25), Healthcare Access (#41), Healthcare Quality (#18), and Public Health (#13). Mr. Javellana is a Floridian of Filipino descent aspiring to win the Democratic primary election for Chief Financial Officer (C.F.O.) of Florida. He is also the first CFO aspirant from Florida’s Asian and Pacific-Islander communities. The CFO is elected state-wide.

Mr. Javellana and his fellow Floridian Democrats have a point — considering that Florida is the third-biggest state, population-wise, with 22.2-million residents. But it lags in the healthcare rankings of the American union of 50 states.

Many of our Floridian friends wonder why Senator Rubio could not lead the Republican elected leaders (that have controlled politics in Florida for decades now) to look at the Cuban healthcare system as a model? After all, Senator Rubio’s parents were born and raised in Cuba and are familiar with Cuban healthcare practices.

Mr. Javellana thinks that Florida’s more-than $31-billion healthcare budget is not adequately spent, accounted for, and duly audited. He says he is the only CFO aspirant who has worked for decades as an accountant, auditor, and tax-and-finance professional. Ergo, he can quickly move to persuade the new governor and the new state executive-and-legislative leaders to cut the fat from the alleged pork-laden healthcare budget. And spend the healthcare dollars wisely and adequately accounted for.

But some Floridian Filipino-American pundits say that Senator Rubio and other Republican-Floridian leaders principally obtain support and campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association, their members, and the gun manufacturers. The pundits say with a tint of humor that perhaps Mr. Rubio and the Republican state leaders prefer to promote only the gun owners’ healthcare needs to lessen their adult mortality rates and give them a longer life expectancy? Because the longer the gun owners live healthily, the more political contributions the GOP politicians receive?

Quo Vadis, Floridians?

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