While most of the comparisons of American health care and insurance reform have been to other wealthy nations like England and Canada, but this week there was an interesting blog in The New York Times about the experiences of one of the poorest, Rwanda, with reform:
Per capita income has tripled — although the fact that it is now only $550 a year tells you how destitute Rwanda was.
Its most impressive gains, however, have been in health. AIDS has been cutting life expectancies in Africa and is widespread in Rwanda. Yet life expectancy at birth in Rwanda has increased from 48 to 58 — in the last 10 years. Deaths of children under 5 have dropped by half in five years; malaria deaths have dropped by roughly two-thirds. “Of all countries in Africa Rwanda is probably getting the closest to having health for all, health access for all,” said Josh Ruxin, a longtime resident of Rwanda who is the founder of the Access Project, a Rwandan-run health program.
One key reason that Rwandans are so much healthier today is the spread of health insurance. In 1999, Rwanda’s health facilities sat unused, as the vast majority of people couldn’t afford them. In response, the Health Ministry began a pilot project of health insurance in three districts. In 2004, the program began to spread across the nation. Now health insurance — called Mutuelle de Santé — is nearly universal. Andrew Makaka, who manages the health financing unit at the Ministry of Health, said that only 4 percent of Rwandans are uninsured.
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