Paul defends Medicare comments

05/15/2010 11:30 PM

GEORGETOWN — Republican U.S. Senate front-runner Rand Paul, an eye surgeon, has taken the position that most government spending needs to be cut – but not Medicare reimbursement to doctors.

That has invited the campaign of his main rival in the primary, Secretary of State Trey Grayson to accuse him of being “arrogant and hypocritical.”

“This is emblematic of his apparent belief that everyone else should pay, except for him,” Grayson’s campaign said in a press release.

Paul, however, said cuts in Medicare reimbursement to doctors have singled out one sector and jeopardizes people’s health. (The Wall Street wrote a short piece on this, which Grayson’s camp has cited.)

“If you cut it enough, I think you’ll get to the point where physicians won’t see Medicare patients,” Paul told reporters Saturday at the Scott County Lincoln Day dinner. “Right now we single out physician fees and we cut them without any kind of vote.”

He denied that his position is hypocritical and, instead, pointed to Congress as cornering the market on that because congressional salaries go up “without a vote” while Medicare reimbursements are cut.

Paul said the system for funding Medicare and Social Security is out-of-whack now that the ratio of workers-to-retirees is nearly even. Borrowing more money and raising payroll taxes are options that Paul said he would oppose, leaving only changing eligibility requirements.

But he declined to suggest any specific recommendations to alter age or net-worth thresholds.

At a March 29 meeting with voters at the Manchester Pizza Hut, however, Paul said the Social Security eligibility age “probably has to” go up to 70.

“It’s hard to go around campaigning on that, it’s about as unpopular of an issue as there is, but it probably has to happen,” he told about a dozen people there. “We moved it to 67 gradually. Probably that’s what you need to do again to 70.”

But neither Paul nor Grayson squabbled over that issue — or any other issue for that matter — during their speeches Saturday at the Lincoln Day dinner in Georgetown.

Both were greeted with polite applause from the 250 Republicans at the Thomas & King Leadership Conference Center at Georgetown College.

Paul and Grayson stuck to their standard speeches. Paul offered the same introductory jokes and anecdotes about government spending before warning of the looming national disaster of the debt.

The “day of reckoning” is near, economically, because the United States pays $383 billion in interest.

“I say: Why don’t we try something novel and build only $2.4 trillion worth of stuff because that’s all we bring in,” he said.

Grayson, in an eight-minute speech compared to Paul’s 12 minutes, touched on the need to cut spending. He mentioned national security issues and the importance of coal and used both issues to contrast his positions with Paul.

Grayson also highlighted the support he has received from key GOP leaders, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset. He added that he has been spending a lot of time in the heavily Republican areas in Rogers’ 5th congressional district.

“We’re doing very well in that part of the state,” he said.

- Ryan Alessi 

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