Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) reached out to top federal officials on behalf of Salomon Melgen after the Florida eye doctor was audited for overbilling the government, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Menendez aides said Wednesday that the junior New Jersey senator first raised concern about the audit of Melgen in 2009 to the director of Medicare payments, arguing that such a penalty was unfair due to the ambiguity of billing rules.
Menendez has been embroiled in scrutiny for his close ties to Melgen, whose West Palm Beach, Fla. offices were raided by FBI agents last week. The Democratic senator admitted that he did not properly disclose two free trips he took to Melgen's Dominican Republic mansion in 2010, but claimed he wrote a personal check to the doctor to cover the costs of the trip.
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Last year, in a meeting with the acting administrator of the agency in charge of Medicare and Medicaid, Menendez again questioned whether federal auditors had been fair in their assessment of Melgen’s billing for eye injections to treat macular degeneration, the senator’s aides said.
The agency had ordered Melgen to repay the $8.9 million, and at the time of both conversations, Melgen was disputing the agency’s conclusion. His appeal continues to this day.
Menendez’s office provided this account of his contacts with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services after The Washington Post asked about the role he had played in the long-standing dispute between Melgen and the agency over his billing practices.