LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul says he opposes federal handouts, but the eye doctor takes government payments for treating Medicare and Medicaid patients.
The dichotomy has drawn taunts of hypocrisy from his Democratic opponent, Jack Conway who on Tuesday called on Paul to quit "stonewalling" and release his Medicare billing records.
"When it comes to government spending that benefits Paul, suddenly deficits don't matter," Conway's campaign said in a release this week.
Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton defended Paul's acceptance of Medicare and Medicaid payments, saying that to shun the two health care programs would "penalize his older patients or his poor patients."
Paul said he sees patients who rely on the government programs, private insurance or who pay for their own care.
"I don't discriminate in my practice, and though I'd prefer to have less government intervention in ... medicine, I put my patients first in this matter," the Republican said. "My medical practice has never been about any ideology or running for office."
His campaign has said about half of Paul's medical income in Bowling Green has come from Medicare and Medicaid payments – which it says is in line with the average for eye doctors around the country.
Since 2005, Paul has received slightly more than $130,000 in Medicaid funds, about one-third of the amount he billed the program, according to the Kentucky cabinet that administers the state-federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
On the campaign trail, Paul says the nation's biggest problem is its rising debt and calls for deep spending cuts. He condemns federal earmarks and other spending that he deems excessive.
Asked how the libertarian-leaning Paul justifies his hawkish stand on the deficit while accepting federal payments as a doctor, Benton replied, "He's not a career politician that has made every single move and calculation in his life or his medical practice based on PR purposes for runs for future office."
Paul's campaign has steadfastly refused to disclose his Medicare payments, despite ongoing pressure from the Conway campaign.
"That's just not something we having lying around the office," Benton said. "That's a pretty difficult thing to pull together."
Paul, a favorite of the tea party movement, once referred to Medicare as "socialized medicine," but has since toned down his rhetoric about the health insurance program for seniors.
Paul opposes cutting benefits for current Medicare recipients, Benton said.
"We're going to need to make some other tough choices about how we fix the insolvency problem," he said. "But cutting benefits for current recipients or near recipients would be immoral."
Benton said Paul would support cutting Medicare reimbursement payments to physicians as part of sweeping cuts in federal spending, but "to single out doctors would be unfair."