Tampa businessperson and philanthropist Kiran Patel is getting back into the health insurance business through a new venture with eternalHealth, a Boston-based company.
Patel is an investor and major shareholder of the company, which operates Medicare Advantage health plans in six Massachusetts counties, according to an announcement this week. It recently expanded into the Phoenix area and now has access to roughly 2 million Medicare recipients, according to the firm.
With guidance from Patel, eternalHealth is planning to acquire small and medium-sized Medicare Advantage plans across the country and expand its footprint to many states. That could include Florida, officials said.
Company CEO Pooja Ika said she wanted to partner with Patel to capitalize on his proven track record of growing health care businesses. In 1999, Patel invested $5 million to take control of WellCare HMO plans in New York and Connecticut. By the time he sold the firm to the Soros Group in 2002, it was a $1 billion business with more than 400,000 members.
Patel also acquired and grew Freedom Health Plan and Optimum Healthcare, which he acquired in 2008 for $12 million in cash, a $5 million capital contribution and 25 million shares of his new health care holding company, America’s 1st Choice Holdings of Florida.
Under Patel’s leadership, the company and its subsidiaries operated the largest Medicare Advantage health plan in Florida and the second-largest chronic special-needs plan in the nation. Freedom Health in 2017 agreed to pay $31 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act, according to a Department of Justice release.
Patel sold America’s 1st Choice Holdings to Anthem, now called Elevance, in 2018.
“His knowledge and expertise is invaluable, and his business acumen is unmatched,” Ika said in a news release.
Patel said he was attracted to invest in the company because of its innovative approach to reducing administrative costs. The company uses a cloud-based platform that uses artificial intelligence to automate operations and communicate with different providers, avoiding the need for using multiple computer systems.
“I knew that this was a company I was excited to be a part of,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Pooja, the management team she has put together, and a knowledgeable board to help grow the company and bring much needed innovation and efficiency to the space.”
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He and his wife, Pallavi Patel, had made several significant donations to the Tampa Bay community, resulting in buildings and institutions bearing their name. That includes an $18.5 million gift to the University of South Florida in 2005 to establish the Dr. Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions. Other donations led to the establishment of the Pallavi Patel Performing Arts Conservatory at the Straz Center, the Dr. Kiran C. Patel Elementary School and the Dr. Kiran C. Patel Research Institute.