Life Sentence For The 63 Year Old Physician
Saloman Melgen sentenced to 17 years today. A win for the defense, but tantamount to a life sentence for the 63 year old physician.
Melgen was charged in a 76 count indictment. The case was brought after data mining by the OIG determined Melgen was the highest billing ophthalmologist to Medicare in the entire country. The Government alleged that Melgen was performing unnecessary eye injections and laser procedures and that Melgen was illegally dividing vials of the drug Lucentis into multiple doses.
One Of The Biggest Health Care Fraud Cases
The Government claimed this was one of the biggest health care fraud cases in the nation and claimed that Melgen robbed Medicare of $105 million. The Government’s experts at trial testified that Melgen used antiquated tests, which were poorly done, to diagnose patients with wet macular degeneration. The experts testified that most of Melgen’s patients didn’t even have the disease. One expert referred to melgen’s practices as “abusive” and “horrifying.”
The defense presented the testimony of Melgen’s family and staff, who said he was a good doctor that cared about his patients.
The jury believed the Government and convicted Melgen of 64 counts. Judge Marra tossed 9 of the 76 counts before the case went to the jury.
There was much litigation in advance of sentencing, including four days of hearings over two months focused on the loss at issue. The Government argued that the loss to Medicare was $136 million. The defense argued the loss was $64,000. Judge Marra largely sided with the Government and set the loss figure at $73.4.
In two ultimately hollow victories for Melgen, the judge agreed that his treatment didn’t pose potentially fatal risks to his patients and that he didn’t target vulnerable people.
“(Melgen) was not able to perpetrate his fraud because his patients were vulnerable. He was able to do so because he was a trained physician in whom his patients place their trust,” Marra wrote. “The mere fact that the patients were elderly puts them in no different position than a patient of any age who trusts that his or her doctor is acting in their best interest.”