By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE - U.S. Senate candidate Daniel Mongiardo unveiled a new television ad Wednesday to fend off an attack over his Appalachian medical practice and the lifestyle it purportedly afforded him.
Mongiardo's counter ad says he helped open a free health clinic in his native Hazard. Mongiardo, a surgeon, volunteers at the clinic, which treats people unable to afford private health insurance.
Mongiardo, a state senator, is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, who is seeking a second term.
"Jim Bunning wants to attack me. I want to attack the problem of health care," Mongiardo, dressed in surgical scrubs, says in the ad.
Bunning campaign manager David Young said Mongiardo was overreacting.
"Daniel has been attacking Senator Bunning incessantly for nine months nonstop, and if he can't handle the facts just once in a lighthearted contrast ad, then he needs to think about taking a vacation in his private plane," Young said.
Mongiardo's new commercial is meant to counter a Bunning ad that says Mongiardo reaped millions from treating Medicaid patients and implies he used the money to afford a luxurious home and his own airplane.
The ad claims that Mongiardo billed the Medicaid system for more than $3 million for treating patients. Medicaid is the government health care program for the poor and disabled.
Citing the Kentucky Department of Medicaid Services, the Bunning campaign said that Mongiardo billed Medicaid more than $440,000 in 1992, more than $665,000 in 1993 and nearly $320,000 in 1994.
Bunning's campaign claimed a former state human resources secretary during that period said any billings more than $300,000 "deserve scrutiny."
Mongiardo campaign manager Kim Geveden said he didn't dispute that Mongiardo has received $3 million in Medicaid payments during his career.
"The issue is the implication that he did something wrong in providing health care to people who couldn't afford it," Geveden said. "It's just the audacity and the arrogance of a career politician like Jim Bunning to attack a doctor for providing care to poor people."
Geveden says that the mansion shown in the Bunning ad is not Mongiardo's.
Mongiardo spokesman Eric Niloff said the new Mongiardo ad was put together after the Bunning commercial began airing this week.
Meanwhile, Bunning said he would release his medical records, and hinted it could come when he meets Mongiardo in a debate next month.
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