Tampa philanthropist Kiran Patel named to expand Boston health insurance company

Tampa businessman and philanthropist Kiran Patel is returning to the health insurance business through a new venture with Boston-based company Eternal Health.

Patel is an investor and majority shareholder in the company, which operates Medicare Advantage health insurance in six Massachusetts counties, according to an announcement this week. The company said it recently expanded into the Phoenix area and is now available to about 2 million Medicare beneficiaries.

With Patel’s guidance, eternalHealth plans to acquire small and medium-sized Medicare Advantage plans across the country and expand its footprint into more states. That could include Florida, officials said.

Pooja Ika, the company’s CEO, said the company wanted to partner with Patel to leverage his proven track record in growing healthcare businesses. In 1999, Patel invested $5 million to manage his WellCare HMO plans in New York and Connecticut. By the time he sold the company to the Soros Group in 2002, it had become a billion-dollar company with more than 400,000 members.

Patel also acquired and grew Freedom Health Plan and Optimum Healthcare. In 2008, he bought it for $12 million in cash, $5 million in equity, and his 25 million shares in America’s First Choice Holdings, a new healthcare holding company in Florida.

Under Mr. Patel’s leadership, the company and its subsidiaries operated the largest Medicare Advantage health plan in Florida and the second largest chronic care special needs plan in the nation. Freedom Health agreed in 2017 to pay $31 million to resolve allegations of violating the False Claims Act, according to a Department of Justice announcement.

Kiran Patel (left) and eternalHealth founder and CEO Pooja Ika.

[ eternalHealth ]

Patel sold America’s First Choice Holdings to Anthem, now called Elevance, in 2018.

“His knowledge and expertise are invaluable and his business acumen is unparalleled,” Ika said in a news release.

Mr. 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 various providers, eliminating the need for multiple computer systems.

“I knew this was a company I was excited to join,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Pooja, the management team she has assembled, and the knowledgeable board of directors to help the company grow and bring much-needed innovation and efficiency to this space.”

He and his wife, Pallavi Patel, have made significant donations to the Tampa Bay community, resulting in buildings and facilities bearing their names. This includes his $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 established the Pallavi His Patel Conservatory of Performing Arts, the Dr. Kiran C. Patel Elementary School, and the Dr. Kiran C. Patel Research Institute at the Straz Center.

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