Health Gains In Rwanda Illustrate Value Of Universal Health Insurance

Noting that the Supreme Court last week upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, “mov[ing] the United States closer to the goal of health coverage for all,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tina Rosenberg reports on health care coverage in Rwanda in this post in the New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog. She writes, “The point is not that Americans should envy Rwanda’s health system,” but “Rwanda’s experience illustrates the value of universal health insurance.” “‘Its health gains in the last decade are among the most dramatic the world has seen in the last 50 years,’ said Peter Drobac, the director in Rwanda for the Boston-based Partners in Health, which works extensively with the Rwandan health system,” she continues, and she adds, “It couldn’t have happened without health insurance.”

Rosenberg provides statistics regarding Rwanda’s health gains in recent years and discusses the evolution of universal health coverage in the country. “Now health insurance — called Mutuelle de Santé — is nearly universal,” she notes, adding, “Andrew Makaka, who manages the health financing unit at the Ministry of Health, said that only four percent of Rwandans are uninsured.” However, “Makaka said that the big challenge for Mutuelle is to begin paying for itself — currently, premiums cover only about 45 percent of costs,” she writes, noting the rest of the money comes from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and PEPFAR. She concludes, “Rwanda, at least, has used donors’ money wisely, employing it to build a complete health system — and to extend that system to all its citizens. … We could ask the same thing in the United States” (7/3).