Josh Valdez took an executive level job in April 2010 expecting to improve medical services at two Puerto Rican Medicare Advantage health plans owned by a subsidiary of New Jersey company: Aveta Inc.
But a few months after coming on board, the former government health official claims, he discovered that the plans — MMM Healthcare and PMC Medicare Choice — had been cheating Medicare out of hundreds of millions of dollars for years, according to a whistleblower lawsuit he filed in federal court.
Valdez accuses the health plans of “rampant fraud,” alleging they overcharged Medicare $300 million to $350 million a year from 2007 through 2010. He claims that Aveta Chief Executive Officer Richard Shinto fired him “in retaliation for his outspoken opposition to these illegal practices.” Valdez filed the lawsuit in Santa Ana, California, in April 2011, but it remained under court seal until February of this year. The case is pending.
In a May 23 statement to the Center for Public Integrity, the health plans called Valdez a “former disgruntled employee” and added that the company “categorically denies the allegations in the former employee’s lawsuit and is highly confident that it will prevail in the case.”
Valdez is a veteran health care executive and consultant who headed the California regional office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2001 through 2003 under President George W. Bush. He also was a health policy adviser to Republican Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential race.
Valdez said in court papers that he served as president of MSO of Puerto Rico, also owned by a subsidiary of Aveta, for eight months until his dismissal in December 2010. MSO worked with local doctors to coordinate coverage for some 230,000 elderly and disabled people then enrolled in those two Aveta-related Medicare Advantage health plans. In a press release touting his hire, Aveta said Valdez would enhance medical care while “effectively managing healthcare costs.”