When Vladimir I. Lenin sought to remake Russian society into a "proletariats' paradise," he targeted three sectors for control: health care, banking and education. Sound familiar?
Of these three, however, Lenin viewed socialized medicine as the "keystone" to building his socialist utopia.
The Bolshevik leader told the Russian people everybody would be able to afford going to the doctor, not just the "greedy rich." He also claimed centralized control of the medical industry would "reduce costs" and end the "waste" from "unnecessary duplication and parallelism" in a competitive market.
In 1918, the USSR became the first nation to promise "free" universal health-care coverage. Fifteen years later, major flaws appeared in its grand social experiment, even to Western observers who for the most part romanticized it.
"Monetary motives have almost entirely ceased to operate in medical practice in Soviet Russia," observed a pair of sympathetic physicians from America and Britain who traveled to Russia in 1933.
As a result, "there still exists a great shortage of physicians and hospitals," they wrote in their report, "Red Medicine: Socialized Health in Soviet Russia." "Drugs are almost fabulously dear and scarce."
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