Healthy in Cuba, Sick in America?

Moore defends his film "Sicko" and the virtues of socialized medicine.


Sept. 7, 2007— -- "Which way to Guantanamo Bay?!"

Anyone who's seen Michael Moore's film "Sicko" will recall the scene in which he shouts with a bullhorn as his boat takes a group of people, including Sept. 11 workers, to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where he says prisoners get better health care than Americans.

After the manned gun towers blow horns at Moore's boat, he takes the group to Havana, where his movie says socialized medicine — government-run medicine — is great for everyone. When Moore's group arrives in Havana, they are taken to a special section of a large showcase hospital.

Moore says in the film, "I asked [the Havana hospital] to give us the same exact care they give their fellow Cuban citizens. No more, no less. And that's what they did."

Watch "Whose Body Is It, Anyway?! Sick in America" Sept. 14 on "20/20" at 10 p.m. EDT

Moore sat down with "20/20's" John Stossel and talked about that claim. When asked whether it really was an average hospital, Moore said, "Yes."

"This isn't just me saying this, you know. All the world health organizations or whatever have confirmed that if there's one thing they do right in Cuba, it's health care," Moore said. "And there's very little debate about that."

In fact, there is plenty of debate. Miami-based Cuban Human Rights activist Jose Carro says Moore's movie paints an inaccurate picture.

"These films that try to portray the health care system as superior to that of the U.S. are lacking in truth," Carro said. He asserts that most hospitals for Cuban citizens are dilapidated, that conditions are filthy and that patients are so neglected that some are starving.

George Utset, who runs the anti-Castro Web site called, says Moore's group didn't "go to the hospital for regular Cubans. They go to the hospital for the elite and it's [a] very different condition."

Darsi Ferrer, a human rights advocate in Cuba, issued an SOS via telephone, wanting the world to know that ordinary Cubans are "crazy with desperation" over the horrendous state of their health care.

Moore says that because Cubans get such good health care, they live longer and it is true that a U.N. report claims that they live nearly two months longer. But the United Nations didn't gather any data, said Carro.

"The United Nations simply reports whatever the government in Cuba reports, so that we have no objective way to know what the real statistics are," he said.

Although Cuba claims to have low infant mortality rates, doctors have said the data is misleading because when there might be indications of problems with the fetus, there is a widespread practice of forced abortions.

Julio Alfonso said, "We personally used to do 70 to 80 abortions a day." Yanet Sanchez, a Cuban exile, said she was simply told to submit to an abortion. "They told me I should end the pregnancy," said Sanchez. "It was my very first pregnancy. I wanted to have the child."

Other doctors have said that if a child dies a few hours after birth, they don't count it as ever having lived, which ultimately makes infant mortality in Cuba look better than that of the United States.

"It changes the number, even though the same number of children may be dying or more," said Carro.

Moore disagrees. "All the independent health organizations in the world, and even our own CIA, believes that the Cubans have a pretty good health system. And they do, in fact, live longer than we do," he said.

But when "20/20" contacted the CIA, officials said, "We don't say that Cuba has a pretty good system or that Cubans live longer than Americans."

In fact, the CIA's World Fact Book says Americans live nearly a year longer. Although a U.N. report supports Moore's position, that data comes straight from the Cuban government.

Why believe anything the Cuban government says about Cuba? Moore said, "Let's stick to Canada and Britain and this stuff because I think these are legitimate arguments that are made against the film and against the, the so-called idea of socialized medicine. And I think you should challenge me on these things, and I'll give you my answer."