Costs of Cuban health care

It's free but costs plenty to maintain it

Here's what it would cost if Cubans paid out of pocket

By José  A. De La Osa

19 February 2011 HAVANAAmidst a period of national and foreign economic turbulence, a thorough look at how much Cuba’s healthcare sector spends is enough to realize the importance of further becoming more efficient in resource management, as the only way possible to continue ensuring free quality medical assistance for the Cuban people.


Let us set out a few examples illustrating what medical service and procedure expenditures mean to the country. Expenditures are, for the most part, paid in hard currency; but all figures presented here have been converted to Cuban pesos, bearing in mind the dual character of national currency ─1CUC is equivalent to 25 Cuban pesos.

The government spends, for instance, an estimated $ 195 on an X-ray of a patient; $473 on an ultrasound and $1,269 on a CT scan. Every natural childbirth costs $ 900 while a caesarean amounts to $1,730.

The field of ophthalmology is no exception. A cataract removal operation costs approximately $1,600; a Pterygium removal operation, $940 and a myopia operation as much as $2,200.

If we speak about transplants, bone marrow is $96,100; cornea, $25, 800; kidney, $110,000; liver, $127,600; and heart $163,000.

Getting a medical examination in a dental clinic is worth $60; and at a polyclinic, $53. A day-patient admission at a Clinical Surgical Teaching Hospital costs around $330; at a Pediatric center, $348; and at a research center, $460.

All of the abovementioned examples clearly show the many benefits enjoyed by the Cuban people in medical and dental care. Social achievements that have been only possible thanks to a Cuban Revolution that prioritizes the well-being of citizens by carrying out prevention, medical care and rehabilitation programs. 


With a Master’s Degree in Health Economics, Odalys Montesino García told Granma that costs could be regarded as a set of parameters assisting in the evaluation of performance and efficiency in workplaces.

Montesino García, who is also the head of the Public Health Ministry’s Department for Systems and Methods, pointed out that you can indeed measure achievements by analysing expenditure; establishing if maximum efficiency and resource exploitation was achieved during a fixed period of time.

Presently, the healthcare sector is obliged to cut expenditures by making the most of resources available, especially now with the country under the negative influence of the economic crisis. Moreover, the criminal US blockade of Cuba, in place for more than half a century, prevents the island from acquiring medications, hospital equipment and other resources much needed in the healthcare sector.

On the even more negative side, other factors driving up healthcare sector expenditures are population growth and aging, continued state subsidies, excessive use of more expensive technologies and unstable disease incidence rates ─ the country spent countless resources on combating the recent A H1N1 influenza virus outbreak.

Following, Montesino urged streamlining resource management and control mechanisms by combating misuse and robbery, addressing over staffing issues, and raising awareness among health officials and managers on the urgency to become more knowledgeable about economic topics─ the only way to become more resource efficient and less wasteful.

She added that many healthcare personnel still misuse hospital resources, running unnecessary laboratory tests on patients who can be easily diagnosed through mere physical examination. We have to also to combat against doctors prescribing unnecessary drugs, a very common medical malpractice detrimental to patients’ health, she continued.

We will only start making positive headway in achieving efficiency and quality healthcare ─a sacred cornerstone of the Cuban Revolution─ once we manage to raise popular awareness on the importance of national economy. Only then, we will be able to understand that money doesn’t grow on trees, and that we have to strive all together if we are to advance economic prosperity. Our foremost task should be then that of encouraging each day resource control and efficiency in workplaces, the only path to really achieving healthcare services of quality in the nation.