When Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela in 1998, he promised free healthcare for all. One year later, the country’s constitution was altered to declare healthcare as a guaranteed right. Free comprehensive health care became available to all Venezuelans.
In the 2000’s several transmissible diseases, including dengue fever, malaria, measles, and tuberculosis, began to reemerge in Venezuela. By 2010, the country stopped making their medical statistics available to the outside world.
Today, Venezuela’s health care system is on the verge of collapse, highlighted by the recent death of former Major League Baseball player Marcos Carvajal. The 34 year old athlete came down with pneumonia, but basic antibiotics were unavailable, leading to his untimely death.
According to NPR, there is also a 90 percent deficit of basic medical supplies and drugs used to treat more serious conditions like cancer. What is available is unaffordable for most Venezuelans. Others report the healthcare system is unable to provide food to hospitalized patients. In 2017, the government suspended the organ transplant program, leaving over 5,000 patients awaiting kidneys in limbo.
Despite the obvious woes and economic hardships facing government healthcare for all programs, many American politicians still dangle the carrot of free healthcare to would-be voters. Sen. Bernie Sanders has championed the idea, going as far as suggesting income tax brackets should rise to as high as 90 percent to pay for socialist programs, like free healthcare.
More recently, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the self proclaimed socialist poised to become the next Representative of New York’s 14th Congressional District, built her campaign around promises of free healthcare for all, as well as free college tuition and guaranteed housing.
Watch: Sen. Bernie Sanders praises Ocasio-Cortez for having the “right message” of guaranteed healthcare.”