A South Florida doctor under criminal investigation for alleged excessive billing of Medicare emerged as the federal health program’s top-paid physician in the nation Wednesday, according to the most detailed data on physician payments ever released in Medicare’s nearly 50-year history.
Salomon Melgen, a West Palm Beach ophthalmologist, was paid $21 million by Medicare in 2012 — more than any other physician who billed the taxpayer-funded program that year, according to new government data.
More than half of those payments went toward reimbursing Melgen for his injections of a costly drug, Lucentis, to treat patients suffering from a retinal disease, macular degeneration. His prolific use of that drug is at the center of the U.S. attorney’s investigation into Melgen’s practice, which thrives largely on payments from the Medicare program.
Kirk Ogrosky, an attorney for Melgen, issued a statement Wednesday denying that his client has defrauded the federal health program for seniors and the disabled.
“At all times, Dr. Melgen billed in conformity with Medicare rules,’’ said Ogrosky, a former federal prosecutor who for years fought Medicare fraud in South Florida and other hot spots.
“While the amounts in the CMS data release appear large, the vast majority reflects the cost of drugs,” Ogrosky said, adding that “the amount billed by physicians is set by law, and drug companies set the price of drugs, not doctors.’’ Story here.