Global health care consortium Bupa agreed to cough up (sorry!) $128,704 to the Office of Foreign Assets Control to settle allegations that it provided health insurance to individuals on the SDN List and, in one instance, re-imbursed a policy holder for medical treatment received in Cuba. You might have assumed that there were limits to the injury that OFAC might try to inflict on SDNs or non-SDNs traveling in Cuba but you would, apparently, be wrong.

The SDN involved was designated under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin sanctions. Unlike the Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions Regulations, the Kingpin Sanctions regulations do not provide an exception even for emergency medical services. (Of course, even though emergency medical services can be provided to SDNs under the Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions, the hospital or doctor cannot be paid for those services without an OFAC license authorizing such payment. Good luck getting treated in those circumstances.)

So the penalties for being a Narcotics Kingpen  extend far beyond simply having your bank account blocked and, potentially, can include dying from lack of needed medical care. I have no special sympathy for narcotics kingpens, but this seems a little harsh.

Trying to interfere with the health care of people traveling Cuba seems even harsher. Moreover, penalizing the reimbursement of a non-Cuban outside Cuba for services previously provided in Cuba seems not to further the U.S. policy of depriving Cuba of resources given that the payment in Cuba was already made. It also illustrates the strained reading that OFAC gives to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations in its effort to penalize anything and everything that has any connection with Cuba.

The fundamental prohibition of the Cuba sanctions prohibits U.S. persons from participating in “transactions [that] involve property in which … [a Cuban] national … has at any time … [or] had any interest of any nature whatsoever, direct or indirect.” Of course, no Cuban national has an interest in the insurance policy under which the reimbursement payment was made. The only such property in that case would have been the funds paid by the policy holder to the Cuban health care provider. To say that the reimbursement transaction “involves” that property obviously stretches the meaning of “involves” to the breaking point, but it shows how broadly OFAC reads these regulations to assure that if you blow your nose and someone in Cuba hears the noise, you’ve violated the rules.