The testimony in Sen. Bob Menendez's corruption trial turned squarely to Medicare yesterday. Jonathan Blum, formerly one of the most senior officials within the Medicare program, testified that Menendez became "very hostile" when Medicare wouldn't change the way it allowed doctors to bill for a specific drug.
The background: Prosecutors say Menendez tried to pressure Medicare to make policy changes that would have benefitted Salomon Melgen, an eye doctor recently convicted of 67 counts of Medicare fraud, allegedly in exchange for hundreds of thousands of gifts and campaign contributions. Menendez has said he and Melgen are simply friends, helping each other out as friends do, with no corrupt quid pro quo.
The latest: According to NJ.com, Blum testified yesterday that Menendez was "very angry" when Blum told him, in a 2009 phone call, that Medicare wouldn't change its billing rules. Menendez raised the issue again years later, but this time also appealed to then-HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She also wouldn't do what he wanted.
"It was a very angry exchange," Blum testified.