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Former HHS Secretary Testifies About ‘Unusual’ Meeting With Menendez On Medicare Billing

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is accused of misusing his office to do favors for a wealthy Florida eye doctor and political donor, in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. Prosecutors say Menendez took bribes to help the doctor with a Medicare dispute.

The Associated Press: Meeting With Former Health Chief Is Focus Of Menendez Trial
The former head of the trillion-dollar federal agency that oversaw the implementation of the Affordable Care Act testified Tuesday she found it unusual when she was asked to meet in 2012 with U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez at the request U.S. Sen. Harry Reid to discuss what she took to be an issue surrounding one physician’s Medicare billing dispute. Five years later, that meeting is playing a central role in the bribery case against Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and the physician, Salomon Melgen, who is charged with plying Menendez with free trips on his private plane and other gifts in exchange for Menendez’s political influence on the Medicare dispute and other matters. (Porter, 10/3)

The Washington Post: Former HHS Secretary Testifies In Menendez Corruption Case That She Declined To Help New Jersey Senator
[Kathleen] Sebelius, testifying as a prosecution witness in Menendez and Melgen’s federal corruption trial, recounted the events leading up to an August 2012 meeting with Menendez and then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) at Reid’s office. “I don’t know exactly what [Menendez] wanted, just that he wanted me to do something,” Sebelius, a Kansas Democrat who led HHS from 2009 to 2014, testified. “My definite impression was that he was very concerned that the policy was inconsistent and unfair and something should be done.” (Maimon, 10/3)

The New York Times: At Menendez Trial, Ex-Health Secretary Recalls An ‘Unusual’ Meeting
“It was unusual for Senator Reid to ask me to come to a meeting involving another member of Congress,” she said. “I think this was the only time in five and a half years that that occurred." ”What also made the meeting different, Ms. Sebelius added, was the topic. “I was asked to discuss a practice involving a billing issue before Medicare and Medicaid services,’’ she said. “That was not something that I was personally involved in on a basis like this.” (Corasaniti, 10/3)

Bloomberg: Senator Menendez Arranged Rare Meeting With Cabinet Secretary Sebelius, Jury Told 
Senator Robert Menendez took the rare step of arranging a meeting with an Obama cabinet secretary to criticize a Medicare policy at the heart of a billing dispute between his close friend and the U.S. government, jurors at the lawmaker’s bribery trial were told. Kathleen Sebelius, the former Secretary of Heath and Human Services, testified Tuesday that the meeting with Menendez was the only time in her five years of running the department when a billing dispute reached her level. (Weinberg and Voreacos, 10/3)

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