Dr. Salomon Melgen, the Palm Beach County ophthalmologist who received more than any other doctor in the country from Medicare in 2012, tried to use political pull in the Democratic Party to get the FBI off his case.
So did Dr. Asad Qamar, an Ocala interventional cardiologist who was paid the second-highest amount in the country, according to the New York Times.
In just one year, Melgen was paid $21 million, and Qamar $18 million, according to Medicare data released this week. They were not the only outliers in the state: 28 of the 100 doctors who received the most money from Medicare in the nation were from Florida, almost three times as many as the far more populous California.
Both Melgen and Qamar have been under investigation for a while; it is not clear whether their campaign contributions to Democrats' campaigns or Super PACs -- $700,000 for Melgen, $250,000 for Qamar -- have helped them. Melgen's offices have been raided twice, he had to pay $9 million back to Medicare for overpayments during a two-year period, and for a time he lost his Medicare privileges, although they have been reinstated. Qamar's Medicare checks are routinely held up for prepayment audit.
Qamar told the Times that his bills are high because he has a staff of 150 and a caseload of 23,000 patients. He said his staff does complex procedures in an outpatient facility that would normally be done in a hospital, so there are facility fees added in.
Whatever the reason, Qamar's receipts from Medicare were four times those of the second-highest-paid cardiologist in the country, who is also from Florida: Dr. Ashish Pal of Davenport.
Dr. Melgen's attorney told the Times in a release that his client's billings are high because he has to pay a lot of money for Lucentis, a drug for a type of blindness that disproportionately affects the elderly, macular degeneration. Investigators accused him of using one vial for three or four different patients but billing as though the patients had used separate vials.