The Louisville Cardinal

Kentucky senator Rand Paul visits U of L, talks ophthalmology and healthcare to med students

By Kelcie Slone–

Senator Rand Paul spoke to medical students, health care professionals, and concerned citizens alike about his field prior to politics, eyes.

Before his election to the Kentucky Senate in 2010, Paul worked as an ophthalmologist for 17 years in Bowling Green, Kentucky. As a member of the medical community, his legislation and platform has a heavy emphasis on that area of medicine.

The discussion took place at the U of L medical school’s Kornhauser Library on Aug. 22. Paul’s speech had a major focus on the recently approved Obamacare and what it will mean to both the medical community and its consumers.

He is a strong opponent of the legislation and vowed to do his best to end it or at least “lessen its impact.”

He said that he believes that the Obamacare legislation will have severe repercussions, including an expense on the poor who will not be able to afford higher insurance bills, which will have risen due to the requirement that health insurance be all-encompassing.

Paul’s politics on health insurance involve driving the prices of health care down. “The prices are high because there is almost no competition,” he said.

“Hospitals charge more because they don’t want to miss out on insurance companies and Medicaid that pays up to a certain amount. However, they don’t actually know what that amount is, because it is illegal to ask insurance companies how much they are willing to pay and those companies do not volunteer that information so they end up charging a higher amount than really necessary. It’s kind of a backwards situation really.”

The Kentucky senator said he hopes to move the medical industry towards a more free-market economy with less government intervention.

He also favors a tax-free system of unlimited Health Savings Accounts. Currently, the limit on these accounts is $5,000, but under Obamacare the limit will be lowered to $3,000.

Another issue Paul had with the current medical situation is the SGR policy. This is a policy put in place to safeguard against inflation.

“Say that prices inflated by nine percent, the government would cut the medical community’s pay by nine percent also.” However, this policy has been repealed nearly every year since it was approved, leaving it, in Paul’s view, basically ineffectual.

Medicaid is another issue Paul disapproves of. “There’s no disincentive to use Medicaid to pay for health care services so it’s over-utilized. Hospitals simply cannot survive solely on Medicaid paid.”

For example, Medicaid pays for the majority of the residents’ salaries. But there is a cap on how many residents Medicaid will pay for per hospital.

Paul is pushing for a permanent repeal of the bill. “It only serves to hang as a threat and uncertainty over doctors the entire the year until they finally find out that it’s been repealed yet again. It’s bad policy.”

The Senator left the speaking engagement on a light-hearted note by giving the attending medical students a bit of joking advice. “The best tactic for doing well on comprehensive tests is by spreading misinformation,” he said. “You tell everyone that you know what exactly is on the test. Then everyone is studying that information while you study everything, leaving you with a better grade. That’s how you get your competition.”

Medical student Matthew Zeiderman, one of the event’s organizers, said in an email to the Cardinal, “We feel that Thursday was a positive, educational event for our school,” but declined to comment further on what the event might mean for the school, or for Kentucky’s future doctors.

Photo courtesy of Paul.senate.gov.