Can US catch up to Iran in Providing Health Care to Least Privileged?

Proponents of unregulated capitalism, or if you will, the ‘free market,’ maintain that it provides a better life for all than do other systems. This allegation is demonstrably untrue if the question is public health across the board. In Iran, under the hyper-capitalist Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, infant mortality was 122 per 1,000 in 1970. Today, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is 28.6 per 1,000, an incredible decrease. Some 94% of the population has access to health services, and around the same percentage have access to affordable medicine. The state is authoritarian and controlling, but it cares about the welfare of even the poor among its citizens in a way that the US-backed, capitalist Pahlevis clearly did not. In the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency, at a time when he had drastically limited Federal support for stem cell research, Iran committed $2.8 billion to such high-powered medical research.

It is to the point where Mississippi, which has among the worst health statistics in the US, and where 20% of the population lacks health insurance, is looking to Iran for a model of how techniques pioneered in a third-world society could improve health care for Americans living in third-world conditions.

So maybe the urgency of Americans resorting to Iranian help will decline today if the US Congress does the right thing and enacts health care reform. It won’t be perfect, but it will extend coverage to some 30 million who now have none, and will stop outrageous abuses like the dropping of sick patients and exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

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18 Responses

  1. Isn't it wacky, Juan? I've had the same reflection on basic healthcare coverage in the Islamic Republic of Iran versus the USA.

    I'm actually half-Native American, and my NA cousin in Colorado needs wrist surgery. She doesn't have health insurance and has been forced to seek charity, so far unsuccessfully. To date, she has wracked up bills in the thousands over this condition, which she is in no position to pay. And then on C-Span, I hear a Republican congressman say that Canadians come to the US because they can't get operations in their country, as if things were dandy here. Where is my cousin supposed to go? I'd like to know.

    Yes, what does it say about the state of affairs where officials in Mississippi are resorting to Iran for advice on healthcare?


  2. In a civilized world, both the Bible and Quran must be restricted to adults. The Old Testament is the worst in terms of incest and wanton mass murders, but the Quran is full of horrid descriptions of hell which terrify adult believers never mind small children.

    We must start by removing the circular blasphemy laws and excuses for sheer terrorism to give people free space to be rational about Holy books.

    Freedom from the tyrrany of the religious true-belivers (aka fanatics) is overdue by centuries. But banning and using anti-religion terror as the Communists did is morally wrong, and counter productive too.

  3. Exports are most telling of the nature of the culture.

    Socialist Cuba for example exports Medical Doctors.

    Capitalist Free Market Corporate U.S. exports War, Weapons, and Woe.

    About says it all.

  4. I'm crossing my fingers hard, Mr. Cole. Hopefully, we'll join the rest of the developed world at last.

  5. Also not to forget Iraq's pre-invasion universal health care now left in tatters by American capitalism. The Iraqi people must be so grateful!

  6. Great piece on collaboration between US and Iran at a scientist ("human being") level. People, in any country, are fundamentally peace loving. It's the political (and unfortunately, also religious) "leaders" that pitch them one against the other for their own interest.

    Two comments:
    (1) Just what is it with our media that such news is never reported in the US?
    (2) But even this piece had to conclude by commenting on Iran's refusal to co-operate on granting access to its nuclear programm – and quotes Israel's news agencies. HELLO…. how many undeclared nuclear missiles does Israel have? What is it with Israel that it is always above law and criticism? Israel is the only racist country left and is an openly colonial regime engaged in continued war crimes.

  7. The Shah cared for Iran and Iranians far, far more than the ayatollahs and the pious ever could. I'm not a fan of him, but Iran was still 'modernizing' at that point and giving the barbaric republic credit for something that the shah played a role in is bullshit. Of course the premise here is simple, us bad brown oppressed people good. condescending moral exercises from the left, nothing more. Can't wait for ahamdinjead's 'humanist' justice warriors to show up in the comment section.

    Every single damn time I say stop reading this blog, and all headache inducing material, then I'm bored at my laptop one day and get pulled right back in.

  8. Just to point out that the current bill does not eliminate exclusions for pre-existing conditions until 2014, by which time I suspect we will find that provision has been removed since nothing must be allowed to stand in the way of the profits of health care insurance corporations.

  9. Have you read the bill? Do you know the ramifications?

    Look here for just a start to the serious problems:
    link to

    You say:
    "but it will extend coverage to some 30 million who now have none, and will stop outrageous abuses like the dropping of sick patients and exclusions for pre-existing conditions."

    The bill makes the kinder and gentler institution know as the IRS its enforcer of the MANDATE of private insurance for health care. This is a dangerous precendent to make the IRS require people to have a private third party product just for existing–a 21 century poll tax. Are you defending an emergent poll tax Prof Cole?

    It's very inadequate to prevent dropping of patients and denial of service coverage so your statements are likely not accurate even if we remember you endorsed the bill when we find it its useless for these issues in 2015. Why? Because the bill wont even start until 2014; if its so good and so important and we care about the uninsured so much why are the politicians being cowards with implementation? What do those people do for 4 years?

    This seems to be all about the political behavior of the Obama administration–they have climbed up a cliff and are threatening to jump so that they can get their way and declare victory. Even Kucinich fell for this "the presidency is at risk" bluff. This presidency has lost almost all of its hope no matter what happens because of the behavior of the President and his advisors–and not just the behavior on this issue.

    Final point: would you stake your health (possibly your life) on the provisions in this bill?

  10. "The state is authoritarian and controlling"

    A middle ground between the Iran model and our 24/7 food fight model might be productive.

  11. With all due respect to Prof Cole, what a ridiculous post. Let me say from the start that I support universal health care in the U.S. and Iran. I also support the establishment of a democratic republic in Iran to replace the current theocratic dictatorship; I am not a monarchist or supporter of the Shah's royal dictatorship. That being said, Prof Cole's post is highly skewed. Have there been improvements in health care and literacy in Iran since 1979? Of course, there have been. Indeed the Human Development Index report indicates that there have been improvements throughout the Third World during the same period of time. Moreover, Iran has the second largest natural gas reserves and third largest oil reserves in the world–something which few developing nations have in such large quantities. Is Prof Cole suggesting that there weren't significant improvements in education and health care in Iran from 1941-1978 during the Shah's reign? Really? The Shah's government enjoyed high oil prices only from 1973-1978. However, Iran's improvements are not particularly impressive when measured against other developing nations:

    Iran's 2007 ranking of Human Development Index (HDI) in 2007 was 88th in the world (behing Azerbaijan and Thailand); it was 95th in life expectancy (behind Samoa and El Salvador); 94th in adult literacy rate (behind Botswana and Syria); 59th in poverty index (behind Sao Tome and Principe and Mongolia); 58th in Probability of not surviving to age 40 (behind Panama and Maldives); 52nd in People not using an improved water source (behind Tunisia and Grenada); 64th in Children underweight for age (behind Swaziland and El Salvador).

    With respect to Comparing Females as % males, it was 165th in Life expectancy at birth (behind Algeria and Iceland); 90th in Adult literacy rate (behind Peru and Saudi Arabia); and 106th in Combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrolment ratio (behind Maldives and Mauretania).

    Iran's female literacy rate is lower than that of Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria (none of which have anywhere near Iran's reserves of oil and natural gas) and also lower than Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, etc (all of which are more patriarchal societies than Iran).

    Meanwhile, the current Iranian regime has executed an exponentially greater number of its own citizens than the Shah's regime. When will Western liberals and leftists learn to stop touting the Islamic Republic's vastly exaggerated "achievements" and tell the truth, namely, that it is the most violent and repressive regime in Iran's history and that despite 31 years of enormous oil and natural gas revenues (at times enjoying some of the highest oil prices in history) it has demonstrated that it is a pathetic underachiever in the realm of standards of living?

  12. I strongly question your depiction of Imperial Iran:

    What was the infant mortality in Iran in 1900? 1920, 1940, 1950, 1960?

    So infant mortality improves from 1970 to present day and the ONLY reason for that is because of the hyper-socialist super nice guy theocrats. Aww how sweet of them.

    I wonder how many millions of dollars the Shah put it into medical research back in the day. Funny how you don't say that. I wonder how much medical research could be done in present day Iran if it weren't for the infrastructure and universities the Shah had built.

    I wonder what the infant mortality rate would be in Iran had the throw back theocrats had not taken over the country.

    I'd like you bring you to an Islamic Republic clinic or hospital, unclean and disgusting. Where you have to bribe the nurse with money for relatives of the mother to see the baby, who then touches the same newborn without washing their hands after touching the money.

    By the way, whats the inflation rate in Iran again? Oh thats right, 11.5%

    Your posts regarding the Pahlavi era of Iran are in my opinion incredibly un-even handed and unbecoming of a professional historian.

    Its one thing to be anti-war and for diplomacy, its another to distort history to be that way.

  13. What's being reported on Iraq Today shows there's enough (bad)going on there to occupy Prof Cole's time w/o him wading into an issue far beyond his expertise.

    As I'm sure most Buchananite and Ron Paul anti-Iraq War folks would agree.

  14. When one says, look, we are in such trouble that we are reduced to learning from Iranians, that presupposes that if all was well, there would be no reason to learn from Iran. But learning from others should be normal state of affairs rather than a shameful aberration. Embedded in this sort of argument is a form of arrogance and feeling of superiority. There is something fundamentally problematic about using Iran as a foil to make arguments about US domestic politics.

    My point is richly illustrated in the journal article itself, which compares Iran directly to Nazi Germany. The arrogance of it! The assumption is that the US is essentially good, and Iran is essentially evil. But the evidence does not support such self-congratulatory approaches.

  15. Yes, professor ~ and not unlike the Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, the Italian Il Duce Mussolini "made the trains run on time."

    Solving the problem of 30+ million American citizens who cannot acquire even basic medical services and pharmaceutical products in a public health system wrongly construed to be a "private market mechanism" by forcing them to purchase "Health Care Insurance" from a handful of financial corporations who, themselves now acquire no moral hazard in return (ie., they would become too big / too essential to have "the freedom to fail") is, in my humble opinion: lousy law; dangerous precedent; and in historical retrospective ~ indicative of a continuing ‘hollowing out’ process of American government.

    The Right may have invented "Big Brother," but today history will record that it was The Left who implemented it, righteously so.

  16. I think Prof Cole should give us complete list of why Iran is superior to the West. Get your head out of the sand please !

    Providing funds for stem cell research is certainly no justification to over look the hanging of gays, rigging elections and torturing political opponents. Bush and co were a regime that lasted for 8 unfortunate years, However, we are a center left country that favors Stem cell research.

  17. I'm sorry but Dr. Cole has fallen for the IRI propaganda. For a truly emprical comparison between the IRI and the Shah's regime, one must recognize the state of affairs before the Pahalavis, namely the Ghajar dynasty. Dr. Cole, your base line is completely fallacious.

    Also, the reason infant mortality is higher because the medicine has improved, including bio-technology and other IT related medical advances. We also had less casulaty in Iran as compared to Vietnam war precisely because of great improvement in medicine and medical procedure. Some of the Iraq or Afghanistan veterans who are alive today, would not have surived during the Vietnama war.

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