Bevin running mate mentioned in Medicare fraud lawsuit

Published 12:03 pm Thursday, February 7, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Kentucky was one of a dozen doctors federal authorities said received improper gifts from a home health agency.

State Sen. Ralph Alvarado is the running mate of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. News outlets report the U.S. attorney’s office argued in a lawsuit that Nurses Registry and Home Health broke the law by giving gifts to Alvarado and other doctors to entice them to refer patients to the business. Those gifts included University of Kentucky basketball tickets, a gift basket and campaign contributions.

Alvarado was not named as a defendant in the civil case and he was not charged with a crime. The Courier Journal reported two former Nurse Registry and Home Health employees began the case as a federal whistleblower lawsuit in 2008. The U.S. Department of Justice joined the lawsuit in 2011.

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The company settled the lawsuit in 2015 for $16 million.

Alvarado declined to speak with reporters at the Kentucky Capitol on Wednesday. But in a written statement, he said the settlement “had nothing to do with me.”

“This is just another attempt to smear my good reputation as a medical doctor with a bogus story,” Alvarado said. “This type of nonsense is why many good people dislike politics.”

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports in 2011, prosecutors alleged Nurses Registry provided “illegal remuneration and kickbacks” to Alvarado and others, who in return referred patients to the agency “in violation of federal law.” Court documents show in 2010, the company gave Alvarado two tickets to University of Kentucky basketball games, an “edible arrangement” worth $56.18 and an invitation to an event to meet University of Kentucky coaches.

Court documents also show that Alvarado received $12,000 in campaign contributions from the owner of Nurse Registry and his family.

Prosecutors said Alvarado referred 457 patients to Nurse Registry in 2006. Those referrals resulted in $1,187,517 in business from Medicare, the taxpayer-funded health program for people 65 and older. In 2010, the year Alvarado received the gifts, he referred 161 patients to Nurses Registry, which received $444,013 from Medicare.

Nurses Registry denied wrongdoing in the lawsuit, calling the gifts “inconsequential.”

Bevin was elected governor of Kentucky in 2015 with running mate Jenean Hampton. But last month, Bevin announced he would not run with Hampton for re-election. Instead, he named Alvarado as his new running mate, saying Alvarado had a “sense of urgency” that he thought was needed.

Representatives from Bevin’s office did not respond to requests for comment from the Courier Journal.