Local February 7, 2013 | 3:49 pm

Menendez denies helping Dominican doctor targeted by the FBI, EFE

Washington.- U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) today denied media reports that he interceded on behalf of a friend and political donor who is now the target of an FBI probe on alleged Medicare fraud, EFE reports.

Speaking for Hispanic media, the lawmaker referred to media allegations of a possible ethics violation to favor Dominican-born eye doctor Salomon Melgen, whose West Palm Beach, Florida, offices were raided earlier this week by federal authorities.

Menendez said he contacted the authorities of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which administer health services for the elderly, retirees and poor people, to clarify the rules for health providers. "We expressed concerns about the policies and ambiguity that make it difficult for medical providers understand them."

In today’s conference, U.S. Senate majority leader, the Democratic Harry Reid, said the Senate Ethics Committee is reviewing Medicare-related charges against Menendez, but noted that he has “full confidence" in him.

According to an article in the Washington Post, Menendez contacted health services authorities twice since 2009 in connection with an audit to determine whether Melgen had charged the government an excess of 8.9 million dollars for care in his Florida clinics.

The newspaper, citing his office advisers, says Menendez "complained to the manager in charge of Medicare payments that it was unfair to penalize the doctor (Melgen) because the rules on claims were ambiguous."

Menendez, 59, is the most prominent Hispanic in the Democrat-controlled Senate, which has selected him as chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee.

His friendship with Melgen has catapulted his name to national headlines after revelations the senator flew twice to Dominican Republic aboard the doctor’s private plane.

Last week Menendez had already discarded reports that he had sex with prostitutes in Dominican Republic, but admitted having traveled to that country in Melgen’s plane.

In Dominican Republic, Melgen reportedly obtained a 20-year contract worth millions, with a company which operate X-ray machines for container inspections at major ports.

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