LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Earlier this week, Governor Andy Beshear (D) announced a plan to provide health insurance for all African Americans in Kentucky in response to seeing a disproportionate amount of COVID-19 cases in the black community.
African Americans makeup around 8 percent of the Louisville population, but are responsible for 19 percent of positive cases.
“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,” said Beshear at his Monday press conference.
A doctor at UofL Hospital, Valerie Briones-Pryor, said the disparities facing the African American community, run much deeper than health insurance. A lack of resources is the issue she sees quite often working in the COVID-19 unit. She hopes that the governor's plan will include funding for health care facilities in communities that face high health risks.
“There's not a lot of primary care in the West End, and that’s a lot of the issue. You know you can give folks health insurance, but who’s going to see them? And a lot of times too, even with the type of health insurance that’s out there, a lot of primary care providers don’t take everything,” says Briones-Pryor.
About 20,000 African Americans are considered to be uninsured according to the Foundation for Healthy Kentucky. Governor Beshear continues to explore health insurance options such as Medicaid, Expanded Medicaid, and private insurance to provide full coverage for African Americans. Helping treat COVID-19 cases, Briones-Pryor said that many African Americans come to the hospital much too late due to a lack of health insurance and quality health facilities.
“If they tell me that the patient is Hispanic or African American and they’re coming in with shortness of breath, I already kind of know they have COVID, because we’re seeing that those populations that don’t have access to care or maybe who do have access but can’t access it now, those are the folks that we’re seeing coming here in the hospital and coming in really sick,” said Briones-Pryor.
A doctor for more than 16 years, Dr. Briones-Pryor, said times have changed in the best way possible, making many doctors aware of the social issues going on around them. She hopes to see funding poured into disproportionately disadvantaged communities to create the next generation of health care professionals.
“All those fields that can touch the patient and take care of the patient, we need to be investing in that community to bring those resources back to that community,” says Briones-Pryor.
Governor Beshear plans to continue creating a comprehensive plan regarding funding and logistics to provide healthcare for all African Americans.