News of the Tautological

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on August 31, 2012

The following is an excerpt from’s “Best of the Web” written by the editor, James Taranto.

News of the Tautological

  • “Idaho Health Officials Say Mosquitoes Are Biting”–headline, Idaho Statesman, July 4
  • “Book Printed With Disappearing Ink Eventually Goes Blank”–headline, Yahoo! News, July 2

A Fish Called Rwanda
“Last week’s Supreme Court decision upholding of the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law moves the United States closer to the goal of health coverage for all,” writes the New York Times’s Tina Rosenberg. That is–she said with no apparent irony–it makes us more like Rwanda, which has a “universal health insurance” system called Mutuelle. Which is a good thing:

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.

It couldn’t have happened without health insurance.

How good are things in Rwanda? Well, life expectancy is 58 (up from 48 a decade ago). Malaria deaths are down. Per capita income is a whopping $550 a year, triple its level at some unspecified time in the past. And it’s been almost 20 years since they had a genocide.

“Rwanda, starting from nothing, decided to build a health system that includes everyone,” Rosenberg concludes. “And it found economic value, alongside human value, in doing so. Now we can get started.” Four more years of ObamaCare and we too may have Rwanda-like life expectancy and income.

But wait. There’s one flaw in Rosenberg’s argument:

The big challenge for Mutuelle is to begin paying for itself–currently, premiums cover only about 45 percent of costs. The rest of the money is from the government and donors, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the United States anti-AIDS program Pepfar. The need to cover costs was the reason for the sudden rise in premiums last year, which drew widespread outrage.

When America follows the Rwanda model, what foreigners are going to help us pay for it? The obvious answer is the Chinese, whose economy has been growing at a healthy pace. But China’s growth has not been driven by exports to Rwanda.

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NOTE:  James Taranto is on assignment. Today’s excerpts are from the July 5 BOTW archives.