Health Race

Kentucky Governor Pledges Universal Health Care Coverage for Black Residents

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) announced plans to provide healthcare coverage to 100 percent of Black and African American Kentuckians in an effort to address racial inequalities in health care on Monday morning.

The governor made the announcement during his daily COVID-19 press briefing. Beshear began the briefing by acknowledging the racial disparities in Kentucky’s coronavirus cases. According to his report, Black Kentuckians make up 16.5 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths but only 8.4 percent of the population.

“I believe that health care is a basic human right. And when I ran for governor, I made a pledge that we would sign every Kentuckian up for some form of health care coverage,” Beshear told NPR. “But COVID-19 has laid bare what health care inequality results in, and that’s death. And so what I’ve tried to do is listen – listen to the demonstrations that are going on, listen to leaders in the black community.”

According to the 2018 American Community Survey, there are approximately 20,000 uninsured Black Kentuckians, about 5.8 percent of the Black population. This reflects the state’s overall uninsured rate at 5.6 percent.

Beshear’s plan would hire “health insurance connectors” to reach out to Black Kentucky residents directly to assist them in applying for insurance private insurance or Medicaid. Kentucky started a similar program after the state expanded Medicaid coverage in previous years. This plan will differ by prioritizing Black and African American Kentuckians.

“We are gonna begin an effort to cover 100 percent of our individuals in our black and African-American communities,” Beshear said. “Everybody. We’re gonna be putting dollars behind it, we’re going to have a multifaceted campaign to do it.”

The governor did not specify how the state would provide coverage to those who do not qualify for Medicaid and aren’t eligible for private insurance through employers. Beshear also did not answer concerns that the program promotes illegal race-based discrimination.

The announcement came in the wake of protests over the murder of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black front-line health care worker, by Louisville police. Beshear also announced several other actions aimed at reducing racial inequality and anti-Black racism in policing on Monday.

When asked if the changes would sufficiently address systematic racism in law enforcement, Beshear said, “No, it’s not. But it’s a start.”

Sources: NPR 6/9/2020; The Hill 6/9/2020; Kentucky Herald-Leader 6/8/2020