With paramedics, polyclinics and plastic bone banks everybody gets free care in the USSR.
In the 1919 when the newly launched Soviet Union was threatened by a plague of louse-borne typhus, Vladimir Illyich Lenin bluntly warned his countrymen: “Either the lice defeat socialism or socialism defeats the lice.” The USSR survived the lice and in the half century since has built to most massive system of the national health care ever known, still based on Lenin’s logical, if unsentimental premise: Russia needs her workers, and a sick worker cannot work.
From birth do death the Soviet citizen is followed by a dossier of his health history. He may get production line preventive treatment without leaving his post at school, factory, farm or office. If he is sick but can walk, he goes to a polyclinic, one of thousands of free, all-purpose infirmaries. At least in the cities there are doctors aplenty. Of the world’s 2.5 million physicians, 500,000 – or one in five – are Russians. (The U.S. by comparison has 309,000 M.D.s, for a population 85% as large. Another half million trained medical assistants called feldshers supplement the doctors, particularly in the vast, thinly settled rural outlands.
The system has flaws. To achieve quantity, the quality of treatment often suffers. Hospital sanitation is spotty at best. Anesthetics and modern equipment are often unavailable and most advanced drugs have to be imported. Dentistry is painfully old-fashioned. Medical education considered as a whole, is not up to U.S. standards (I would argue with that. M.V). But the Soviet goal is a lifetime health care for everyone, and any enterprise that ambitious is bound to have failings.
Notice everyone is pretending there is no lady in the uniform with a heavy case standing in front of them. That’s Moscow subway for you.