April 9, 2014

Menendez Scandal Doc Scammed Medicare for Millions

A Florida doctor who was a generous political donor to embattled Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), billed the most to Medicare of any doctor in the country in 2012. The New York Times reports:

The doctor who bills the most for Medicare in the country is a South Florida ophthalmologist whose offices were twice raided last year by the FBI and whose generous political contributions and cozy relationship with a New Jersey senator, Robert Menendez, are under investigation by federal public corruption prosecutors, a New York Times analysis of Medicare data shows. Data released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, 59, who moved to Florida from the Dominican Republic in the late 1970s, received $21 million in Medicare reimbursements in 2012 alone. The doctor billed mostly for Lucentis, a medication used to treat macular degeneration made by a company that pays generous rebates to its doctors.

According to Bloomberg Government, Melgen’s Medicare reimbursements were 64 times the average in his field:

Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist who specializes in injections for age-related macular degeneration, was paid $20,827,341 in 2012, or 64 times the average in his field, the data show. His appeal of a 2009 ruling that found he overbilled Medicare by $8.9 million was rejected last year.

In 2013, it was revealed that Menendez used Melgen’s personal jet to take trips to the Dominican Republic, which led to a Senate ethics investigation and Menendez reimbursing more than $70,000 for the trips, according to The Associated Press:

Topping Medicare’s list was Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, whose relationship with Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., made headlines last year after news broke that the lawmaker used the doctor’s personal jet for trips to the Dominican Republic. … Melgen, the top-paid physician in 2012, has already come under scrutiny. In addition to allowing the use of his jet, the eye specialist was the top political donor for Menendez as the New Jersey Democrat sought re-election to the Senate that year. Menendez’s relationship with Melgen prompted Senate Ethics and Justice Department investigations. Menendez reimbursed Melgen more than $70,000 for plane trips. The issue exploded in late January 2013, after the FBI conducted a search of Melgen’s West Palm Beach offices. Agents carted away evidence, but law enforcement officials have refused to say why. Authorities declined to comment on the open investigation.