THE MENENDEZ TRIAL: ‘Bad Medicine is Not Illegal’

NEWARK – A staffer for Sen. Bob Menendez told Medicare officials on a 2009 conference call that Dr. Salomon Melgen was a “personal friend of the senator’s” and Medicare should pay the $8.9 million worth of overcharges Melgen had racked up, a former government employee said on the witness stand today.

Dr. Louis Jacques, formerly employed by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was one of the people on the call more than eight years ago. He testified today that one specific exchange on the call with the unnamed Menendez staffer caused him to leave the room.

“It was literally when the other person said, ‘Bad medicine is not illegal, and Medicare should pay for it,’ I got up to stretch and clear my head,” Jacques testified.
“It struck me as something I had no expectation of hearing,” he added.
Melgen had been caught multi-dosing, stretching vials of eye solution intended by the FDA for one patient to treat three or four, then billing Medicare triple or quadruple.
During cross-examination, Menendez and Melgen’s defense attorneys pointed out the senator’s staff made no effort to hide the friendship between the two men, who are on trial in federal court on bribery and conspiracy charges.
In fact, in cross-examination of both Jacques and a government Medicare expert earlier in the day, defense attorneys revealed Medicare sometimes allows multi-dosing, and sometimes does not.
Though both defense attorneys and the prosecution delicately walked a narrow tightrope of questioning allowed by Judge William Walls so as not to re-litigate the Medicare fraud, jurors did get to hear the arguments for and against the practice of multi dosing.
Additionally, Jacques admitted,  the Menendez staffer never denied Melgen had over billed under the current rules, simply that the rules were flawed.
Jurors returned from a break at 1:20 pm, and former US Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa took the stand.
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