Country of origin: Zambia
Year came to U.S.: 1976
Education: Undergraduate at University of Cambridge and University of London; MD, Gujarat University, India; and Fellowship in Cardiology, Columbia University, New York
Business: WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (1992)
Headquarters: Tampa, FL
2018 revenue: $20.4 billion (acquired by Centene Corporation in 2020)
U.S. employment: 9,400
Patel’s mission was to make health care efficient, affordable and accessible.
He grew WellCare Health Plans, Inc. from a small, struggling HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) to America’s fifth-largest.
A cardiologist born in Africa of Indian parents is the man responsible for almost single-handedly transforming the face of health care in Florida. Even after building up WellCare Health Plans, Inc. from a fledgling HMO to America’s fifth largest, Kiran C. Patel continues to serve the medical community.
Patel was born in Zambia in 1950. Educated under the British system, he attended medical school in India before becoming a fellow at Columbia University, New York.
In 1980, Patel moved to Florida where he grew a reputation as a distinguished cardiologist. But, being dissatisfied with simply excelling at his job, his mission became making health care efficient, affordable and accessible.
Patel developed a physician practice management company in Tampa Bay. He partnered with several point-of-service locations to form a multi-specialty network that helps more than 90,000 patients access medical services conveniently every year. He entered the health insurance business when he took over WellCare, a small HMO on the verge of bankruptcy. Within a few years, WellCare became the fifth largest HMO in the country, had expanded up the Eastern seaboard and boasted more than $1 billion in revenue. He bought WellCare in 1992 for $5 million and 10 years later sold the company to a group of investors for a reported $200 million.
A non-compete agreement kept Patel out of the insurance business for five years, but that didn’t quell his entrepreneurial spirit. He founded Visionary Medical Systems, a software vendor that reduces paperwork and allows physicians to spend more time with their patients, and the Patel Foundation for Global Understanding, a not-for-profit organization that develops and funds programs in health, education, and arts and culture. Visionary Medical was acquired by CompuGroup Medical AG in 2010.
In 2007, Patel was back to turning around another managed care company, America’s 1st Choice. He grew America’s 1st Choice into $1.4 billion company before selling it to Anthem in 2018 for an undisclosed amount.
Patel seems to be out of the managed care business, for now. He’s “passing the torch” to his children, focusing his own energy on health care initiatives in Jamaica and his home country of Zambia. He and his wife, Dr. Pallavi Patel, have committed $200 million to create a Clearwater campus for Nova Southeastern University, including the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Dr. Pallavi Patel College of Health Care Sciences. They are also establishing the Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel University in Gujarat, India, which will include a medical school in collaboration with Nova Southeastern University. In 2019, the Indian government awarded Patel the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, an award for exceptional Indian emigrants that only 136 people have ever received. In 2020, WellCare was acquired by Centene Corporation.
Discover other ways immigrants have supported the health care field with The Immigrant Learning Center’s research report Immigrants in Health Care: Keeping Americans Healthy Through Care and Innovation.
Updated November 2021