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KY-Sen: Rand Paul Made Up His Own Ophthalmologist Certification

Now that Rand Paul isn’t giving national interviews and discoursing about the limits to freedom of restaurant owners to throw black people out of their businesses, the traditional media has generally turned away. Locally in Kentucky, however, a major story is brewing about Paul’s previous profession, ophthalmology. The top papers in the state have questioned his certification for the job:

U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul says he is a “board-certified” ophthalmologist — even though the national clearinghouse for such certifications says he hasn’t been for the past five years.

Rand Paul, who practices in Bowling Green, says he is certified by the National Board of Ophthalmology, a group that he incorporated in 1999 and that he heads.

But that entity is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, which works with the American Medical Association to approve such specialty boards.

So Rand Paul created his own board of ophthalmology, created an “address” for the board at a UPS store in Bowling Green, put his wife on the board as Vice President (she claims not to have done anything on the board) and certified himself – that’s libertarianism at work. Let the market decide who is certified to practice medicine, and by “the market” I mean myself making up a phony board. It turns out that Paul is the ONLY certified ophthalmologist of the board he created. He let his certification with a recognized board of ophthalmology lapse. This sounds like he didn’t want to pay for certification, so he created his own.

There are lots of implications in this matter. First of all, Paul lied about being certified by both boards in discussions with the Louisville Courier-Journal. He now says he misheard the question. Second, he took five days to respond to the allegations raised in the reports. Courier-Journal columnist Joseph Gerth slams him for that today.

When will politicians realize that not answering questions is a bad idea because it leaves the impression that they are hiding something? […]

I ask this because when I tried to query Rand Paul, the eye surgeon turned Republican U.S. Senate nominee, about the medical certification board he incorporated, owns and runs (the board that has certified him) he said he didn’t want to answer such questions — ever.

Moreover, he said, he didn’t understand what it had to do with his Senate race […]

They have to do with trust.

Patients have come to expect that a doctor who holds himself out as a “board certified” specialist, as Paul does, meets rigorous standards created by an independent body?

And, if the American Board of Medical Specialties, the American Medical Association, the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure and the American Academy of Ophthalmologists don’t recognize Paul’s National Board of Ophthalmology, exactly what are the standards required for certification by that board?

In a separate story from the Lexington Herald-Leader, Paul gets dinged for supporting Big Government spending only when it affects his pocketbook:

But as a Bowling Green eye surgeon, Paul built his medical practice on payments from Medicare and Medicaid, the massive government health care programs considered to be leading contributors to the national debt.

Paul, the Republican nominee, has been paid $130,461 in Medicaid funds since 2006, about one-third of the sum that he billed the program, according to the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which administers that program. Doctors’ Medicaid billings often are disputed in part, leading to smaller payments than they requested […]

On the campaign trail, Paul calls for the abolition of entire agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education, while complaining that Medicare payments to doctors have been cut too deeply, making it one of the few government expenses he consistently defends.

“Physicians should be allowed to make a comfortable living,” Paul told supporters in Louisville in May, according to the Wall Street Journal.

There seem to be a lot of exceptions to Paul’s libertarianism.

Jack Conway, Paul’s Democratic opponent, jumped all over these stories in a release to supporters, calling Paul a “Do as I say, not as I do” politician. Conway noted that Ron Paul, Rand’s father and also a doctor, actually refuses Medicaid and Medicare payments, in line with his political philosophy.

“Every time voters turn around, Rand Paul seems to be betraying their trust by changing his mind about his principles and beliefs. Like any typical politician, he seems to be influenced by the money that lines his pockets more than by what is good for Kentucky. We deserve a Senator like Jack Conway, who keeps his promises to those he serves and protects important programs, like Medicaid and Medicare,” said Conway spokesperson Allison Haley.

Everyone in the national media may have forgotten about Rand Paul, but he’s having a pretty bad few days.

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David Dayen

David Dayen