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    Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during the opening ceremony of a hospital in Maturin. | Photo: Reuters

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"Health, it has to be said a million times, cannot be a commodity," Maduro said Friday.

At a time when the new U.S. administration is seeking to get rid of an affordable health care system put in place by the previous government, Venezuela has expanded its free health care coverage to more than 60 percent of the population, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said.

ANAYSIS:
Chavez' Legacy in Venezuela: Transforming Millions of Lives

During a speech marking Doctor's Day, Maduro said with the addition of free, full medical coverage in the states of Vargas, Merida and Falcon, the service is now available in 15 of the country's 23 states.

"Health, it has to be said a million times, cannot be a commodity. We have to build a healthcare system with a doctrine of human service," Maduro said Friday.

Coverage is expected to be extended to the remaining eight states and the capital district by the end of April, said Maduro, who also presented 382 medical graduates with their degrees.

As part of a plan to upgrade the national healthcare service, the government is promoting training in new technologies, and raising doctors' salaries, he said. His government will issue a decree increasing salaries for all doctors working in the public health sector by 50 percent.

Maduro also thanked Cuba for helping to contribute to the effort by sending doctors and medical professionals to the South American country.

When the socialists came to power in the country 15 years ago, the government increased the budget spending on social services from just 37 percent to more than 61 percent.

Health care is one of the sectors that benefited the most from that boost in social investment.

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As a result, infant mortality in revolutionary Venezuela has dropped by a third and this effort is estimated to have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

Venezuela joins most of the world in providing free health care to most of its population while the U.S. has remained one of the few countries in the world, as well as in the West, to not offer universal health care to its citizens.

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act passed by former President Barack Obama, which delivers insurance to 20 million people in the country. Trump and his Republican allies argue that health care must be private in order to give everyone in the country “access” to all sorts of health care.

"We need to join the rest of the industrialized world. We are the only major country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people as a right," former presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders said recently referring to the United States.

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