Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said he would pursue “100 percent” health care coverage for black residents earlier this week as the state reports a disproportionately high number of coronavirus cases in the black community.
“This is just the first commitment in making up for the inequality that Dr. King said was one of the most severe: inequality in health care,” Beshear, a Democrat, said at a press conference Monday. “We’re going to be putting dollars behind it, we’re going to have a multifaceted campaign to do it. It is time, especially during COVID-19.”
African Americans make up 8 percent of Kentucky’s population but roughly 19 percent of coronavirus cases, according to the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. The state had more than 11,000 coronavirus cases as of Tuesday afternoon.
The announcement raised questions about how the governor specifically intended to achieve full coverage.
“Our goal, and it’s a short term goal, is to make sure that we reach out to every single one of those individuals and get them signed up for some sort of coverage,” Beshear clarified on Tuesday. “Many of them qualify for Medicaid or expanded Medicaid. There’s also the private market and other means.”
“That doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop there,” he said.
In this Sunday, May 3, 2020, file photo, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a news conference at the state’s Emergency Operations Center at the Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky., about the coronavirus pandemic. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)
Roughly 20,000 of Kentucky’s African American residents are uninsured, according to the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
“The health of the people of our Commonwealth is a tale of two cities – of two populations – one is Kentucky’s African American population who suffers highly disproportionate economic hardship and chronic illness,” the foundation’s president and CEO Ben Chandler said in a statement. “The overwhelming reason for that is centuries of discrimination.”