House District 74 GOP hopeful Julio Gonzalez has entered full damage control mode as he tries to explain how he was an opponent of Obamacare months before Barack Obama was a nominee for president.
In April of 2008, Gonzalez — a Venice orthopedic surgeon — donated $500 to Democratic National Committee chair U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, claiming it was to secure a meeting to discuss the “evils” of Obamacare, reports Tom Lauder of MediaTrackers.org.
However, Obama did not secure the Democratic nomination until June of 2008, and Gonzalez’s donation predated the Affordable Care Act by more than two years.
Gonzalez, who faces Richard DeNapoli in the HD 74 GOP primary, told at least two Republican audiences that the donation was to facilitate a meeting with Wasserman Schultz to discuss his objections to Obamacare. Lauder writes that Gonzalez vividly described “going toe-to-toe” with the Weston Democrat.
“I did numerous trips to Washington D.C. where we went to argue against Obamacare,” he told one group. “I sat down and it turned into a fight….I got into a fight with Debbie Wasserman Schultz. It was awesome.”
In another version told to a GOP crowd, Gonzalez said he attended a “fundraiser” as the “most learned person there on Obamacare and what they were planning on doing.” He referred to that meeting as a “fiasco” where Wasserman Schultz “brow-beated” opponents of Obamacare until “the whole meeting fell apart and we realized that there was nothing that we were gonna say to convince these people that what they were doing was unreasonable.”
Lauder notes the likely scenario is that Gonzalez talked with Wasserman Schultz about the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), and that issue was the true motivation for the meeting. SGR is how Medicare payments to physicians are calculated. Ted Kennedy and Democrats successfully blocked Republicans’ attempts to cut SGR payments in 2008, around the same time of Gonzalez’s donation.
According to recently released federal documents, Gonzalez collected over $100,000 in Medicare payments. An article in the Wall Street Journal last week contained a comprehensive list of 2012 Medicare payments to providers.
On that list, Gonzalez had received $127,701 in Medicare payments during 2012. His wife, a Venice OB/GYN, also collected $116,470.
On April 22, Gonzalez attempted damage control during a debate at the North Port Area Republican Club. When asked about the donations and connection to Obamacare, he used a new strategy to explain his Washington meetings.
Gonzalez told the audience he knew Obamacare was coming “way before President Obama got elected,” then claimed Democratic plans for health care reform at the time were the same as Obamacare.