When Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday his plans to “create a better world and create a better Kentucky,” Suzanne Craig was listening.

And she was elated.

Craig, who leads the Daviess County Community Access Project at Green River District Health Department, works as part of a team that secures free prescription drugs for local residents who can’t afford their medications. She’s also a local expert on health insurance coverage.

She was pleased to hear a health care initiative sits at the top of Beshear’s three-pronged plan to curb racial inequality. He has called for every black Kentuckian to be covered by some form of health insurance.

COVID-19 has exposed inequity in health care for black people. They make up more than 17% of virus deaths in Kentucky; however, only 8% of the state’s population is black.

Also, Craig said, black people suffer from higher rates of colorectal, prostate and breast cancer. They are more likely to die from asthma than any other ethnic group.

On average, black people don’t live as long, compared to their Caucasian counterparts, Craig said. Statistics show black women die four years sooner, and black men die three years sooner.

That highlights just a few health disparities.

Craig’s message: “Many people already qualify for health care coverage, especially African-Americans, but they don’t realize they qualify.”

There is no need to wait for Beshear to act or for the initiative to kick off.

Craig urges all residents, regardless of race, who are not covered by health insurance to check with GRDHD or a state hotline to find out if they qualify for Medicaid. The local health department’s number is 270-852-2904, and the state hotline is 855-306-8959.

“It costs nothing to inquire or apply,” she said.

When COVID-19 first hit the state, Beshear encouraged all eligible residents to enroll in Medicaid. Health-care coverage during a worldwide pandemic was key, he said.

Even before the virus, GRDHD was passionate about health insurance coverage for all residents, Craig said.

“It costs all of us when people die prematurely and when they get health care too late,” she said.

Emergency and late-stage care are more expensive, not counting the human costs involved. It serves taxpayers well to provide health-insurance coverage with adequate preventive care options, Craig said.

“We don’t want to leave anyone behind,” Craig said.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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