YAZOO CITY, Miss. — The plight of health care’s have-nots is vividly illustrated alongside a highway on the outskirts of Yazoo City, the hometown of Mississippi governor and potential Republican presidential candidate Haley Barbour.
Tucked into a crumbling strip mall with a dollar store called Dirt Cheap, a bare-bones clinic with a peeling facade serves dozens of impoverished patients daily. It is among the limited sources of primary care for about a half million residents who lack insurance in Mississippi, 18 percent of the population.
But while many of the clinic’s patients stand to gain insurance and access to better health care under the national overhaul signed last year by President Obama, Barbour says Mississippi does not want the help. Instead, his calls to throw out the overhaul and the massive expansion of Medicaid at the core of the law are becoming the centerpiece of his emerging candidacy.
Barbour’s view: It’s costly big government at its worst.
His attacks baffle and infuriate health care advocates and physicians who work closely with the state’s most disadvantaged patients. They contend that Mississippi — the poorest state in the country, with the highest incidence of obesity — is among states most desperately in need of the broader coverage. They are especially dismayed because they view the law as a great financial deal for the state: The federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost of the Medicaid expansion from 2014 to 2016 and 90 percent of the cost after 2020.