Health Care Around the World

International Healthcare Models: Rwanda

The New York Times recently discussed the Rwandan model of healthcare.  According to the article, “Rwanda has had national health insurance for 11 years now; 92 percent of the nation is covered, and the premiums are $2 a year.”  By comparison, in the U.S. only 85% of people have health insurance and premiums costs thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.

The tone of the article can be summed up by the sentiments of college student.  Sunny Ntayomba a Rwandan working for the N.Y. Times in Kigali said that the student found it “absurd, ridiculous, that I have health insurance and she didn’t…if she got sick, her parents might go bankrupt. The saddest thing was the way she shrugged her shoulders and just hoped not to fall sick.”

The reality is, however, that Americans could certainly afford health insurance for Rwandan-style medicine.  Insurance covers treatment for diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, malnutrition, infected cuts, which are the most common causes of death in Rwanda.

It does not cover  care such as M.R.I.s and dialysis.  Further, diseases such as cancer, strokes and heart attacks are often death sentences. “The whole country, with a population of 9.7 million, has one neurosurgeon and three cardiologists.”  Most Americans could afford insurance that just covered primary care.  The problem in the U.S. is not that people can’t afford any medical care; it’s that they can’t afford the medical care typically practiced in the U.S.  Would you rather be sick in the U.S. without insurance or sick with insurance in Rwanda?


  • Typically practice in small clinics


  • Health insurance is known as health mutuals
  • Health insurance only costs $2 per year.
  • Most services have a co-pay (e.g., a Caesarean has a $5 co-pay)

Statistics (from CIA World Factbook)

  • Infant Mortality is 65.6/1000, ranking 199th in the world.
  • Life Expectancy at birth is 57.5 year, 193rd in the world
  • 2.8% of adults (aged 15-49) are currently living with HIV/AIDS, 26th worst in the world
  • Major infectious diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, and malaria.

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