In the words of Dr. Alvarado/Sen. Ralph Alvarado, “The federal settlement with Nurses Registry had nothing to do with me. This is just another attempt to smear my good reputation as a medical doctor with a bogus story. This type of nonsense is why many good people dislike politics.”
In fact, the Feb. 6 news story about Nurses Registry has nothing to do with Alvarado’s good reputation as a medical doctor; rather, this is a story about Alvarado’s qualifications to possibly serve in the second most powerful position in Kentucky state government, the position of lieutenant governor. Alvarado recently became Gov. Matt Bevin’s running mate in his quest for a second term.
While Alvarado would like Kentuckians to believe this is a “bogus story,” we should ask ourselves why the federal government and federal prosecutors would file a “bogus” case in federal court? And why did the company agree to pay a $16 million judgment if the case was “bogus”? To quote just a few sentences from a so-called “bogus” federal filing, consider the following:
“In 2010, Dr. Ralph Alvarado, another of NRHH (Nurses Registry and Home Health Care) largest referral sources, received multiple gifts from NRHH. In January, NRHH gave Dr. Alvarado two tickets to a UK basketball game. In March, NRHH gave Dr. Alvarado tickets to attend its Coaches Night event. In April, NRHH gave Dr. Alvarado an ‘Edible Arrangement’ gift basket. The year that Dr. Alvarado received these gifts, he made 161 referrals to NRHH, resulting in reimbursements from Medicare of $443,013.
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“Dr. Alvarado also received the benefit of cash payments from (Nurses Registry owner) Mr. and Mrs. House. In 2006 and 2010, Mr. and Mrs. House each made multiple contributions of $1,000 to the state Senate campaigns of Dr. Alvarado. These contributions totaled $8,000. In 2006, Dr. Alvarado referred 457 patients to NRHH, resulting in reimbursements from Medicare to NRHH of $1,187,517.”
No, this is not an attempt to smear anyone’s reputation as a medical doctor; there is no dispute that Alvarado is a good medical doctor. Instead, this is simply an attempt to inform Kentucky voters about his involvement in a case which resulted in significant payments to NRHH of nearly $4.8 million from Medicare that could have been spent on those who actually needed health-care services. To quote the words of the federal prosecutors in the NRHH case:
“There is no material dispute of the fact that Defendants gave remuneration to numerous physicians and referral sources. There is no material dispute of the fact that Defendants’ purpose in doing so, at least in part, was to induce or reward referrals from the doctors and other persons who received compensation. Having done so, it is clear as a matter of law that Defendants violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark Law. Those violations were not inconsequential – it is undisputed that the Medicare program paid nearly 1,800 of NRHH’s claims, totaling approximately $4.8 million, for home health services that were tainted by such violations. Significantly, Defendants’ conduct did not end there. The evidence indisputably shows knowingly false certifications of compliance with the Stark Law and Anti-Kickback Statute by NRHH – signed by Lennie House – which in turn give rise to substantial liability under the False Claims Act.”
This is neither a bogus story, nor a smear campaign; this is nothing more than a story which will allow Kentucky voters to decide on their own whether Alvarado is qualified to hold the second highest office in Kentucky, or for that matter, whether he is qualified to possibly fill the role of Kentucky’s governor, if the governor should step aside.
In the end, it will be up to voters to make their own decision as to Alvarado’s qualifications. Kentuckians are not going to the polls to vote for a good doctor; instead, Kentuckians will be going to the polls to vote for a qualified candidate, a candidate who will not only serve Kentuckians faithfully, but a candidate who will offer solutions, not excuses for their conduct.
So, Kentuckians need to ask themselves a very simple question: Was the approximately $4.8 million in precious Medicare funding the government paid to Nurses Registry for these false claims so inconsequential for Kentuckians to ignore; or for that matter was the $1,631,530 in precious Medicare funding the federal government reimbursed Nurses Registry as a result of Alvarado’s 618 patient referrals so inconsequential that Kentucky voters should turn a blind eye to, in his words, this “bogus story.”
When they go to the polls in May, and again in November, Kentuckians will have to ask themselves whether they should vote for someone who makes excuses for his conduct, or someone who will serve all Kentuckians.
Mark Wohlander, a former FBI agent and former federal prosecutor, practices law in Lexington. As a private attorney, he was involved in the Nurses Registry and Home Health Care case which resulted in a $16 million judgment for the government and was one of the attorneys involved in the Eric Conn case which resulted in a $32 million judgment for the government.