How InnovaCare Health Prepared for Hurricane Maria and Impacted Over 200,000 Residents in Puerto Rico

InnovaCare Health makes an impact in Puerto Rico

InnovaCare demonstrated its superior ability to plan and prepare for disaster during the fall of 2017. The healthcare company helped countless customers, staff, and others in need of help in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which brought mass destruction to Puerto Rico. In fact, other companies in healthcare, and even those outside of the industry, could benefit from studying InnovaCare’s successful execution of its disaster plan.

Beyond Medical Services

InnovaCare Health Puerto Rico

The devastation of Hurricane Maria was massive. The category five storm was the deadliest storm on record to hit the Atlantic Ocean since Jeanne in 2004. Maria pummeled Puerto Rico with 155 mph winds. It caused the deaths of 3,057 people total, with 2,975 of those in Puerto Rico. And it caused an estimated $91.61 billion in damage.

More than 450,000 members of the InnovaCare health plan were impacted by the storm, along with 2,000 of the company’s employees. While no single person, organization, or company could have stopped this force of nature from happening, InnovaCare and its employees went far beyond simply providing medical services to help the people of Puerto Rico.

They set up a relief campaign and called it “Caminamos Juntos,” which means “We Walk Together.” This name let people know that, whether they were health plan members or not, they were not alone during this devastating time.

Volunteers from the company logged over 8,000 hours helping victims of the storm. In addition to medical services, they provided water, meals, and support to families and individuals. By partnering with Bacardi Limited, a spirits company headquartered in nearby Cuba, they delivered the needed supplies and medical services to 30 Puerto Rican towns.

All in all, in the three weeks after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, InnovaCare delivered over 40,000 medical supplies and provisions and evacuated families with critically ill members to other locations that had the facilities and resources to treat them.

What InnovaCare managed to do with speed and efficiency was no small feat. So, how was the company able to execute so quickly where other organizations were not? Advanced preparation was, and still is, of vital importance to InnovaCare.

How InnovaCare Prepared for Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria InnovaCare Health

According to Richard Shinto, InnovaCare Health and MM Holdings president and chief executive officer, emergency preparedness is vital for care providers and insurers. He firmly believes that advance planning for disaster should be a moral obligation for all healthcare companies. It also makes good business sense. Before Hurricane Maria ever struck land, InnovaCare knew exactly what it would do in the event that it was as devastating as expected. This plan involved multiple moving parts:

InnovaCare’s Emergency Management Team

InnovaCare had an emergency management team in place to oversee all of the operations of its disaster recovery plan. This team was located in another part of Puerto Rico that was not impacted by Maria.

Disaster Recovery Teams

In addition to the operations team, the healthcare company had disaster recovery teams strategically placed throughout the area and ready to go when needed. Once they were activated by InnovaCare’s emergency management team, these disaster recovery teams moved in to help get essentials to the different communities.

Business Recovery Team

InnovaCare’s business recovery team maintained key businesses operations throughout the entire process. The business recovery team played a crucial role behind the scenes. It made advance payments to medical providers and various specialists on the ground so that InnovaCare’s network of health providers was intact and ready to help victims of the hurricane. The business team paid employees in affected areas cash so that they would not go without a paycheck, and it ensured that its supply chain of providers had plans in place and the medical equipment they needed to serve the community once the hurricane subsided.

InnovaCare Provides Free Medical Care Regardless of Insurance

InnovaCare Health

Another key element of InnovaCare’s disaster recovery plan was to provide medical services to residents, regardless of whether they were on an InnovaCare plan, another insurance plan, or did not have insurance. The company set up free clinical tents, since most of the buildings had been destroyed or were inhabitable. This ensured that healthcare workers had spaces in which to treat people. While some medical professionals worked in the tents, others went out into the communities to check on residents. Overall, InnovaCare impacted over 200,000 residents and treated thousands in need of medical care.

Additional Humanitarian Aid

InnovaCare went beyond providing medical services to support its employees, customers, and others affected by Hurricane Maria. The company set up facilities where its staff could shower and get cleaned up for their work. It offered assistance to employees who lost homes and set up community services such as laundromats and barbershops.

The people of Puerto Rico, and particularly those called to help others in the aftermath of the storm in spite of their own circumstances, needed some sense of normalcy. InnovaCare recognized this, even before the storm hit, and was prepared to set up these facilities for its staff, customers, and the greater community.

InnovaCare’s Key Focus Areas for Storm Recovery

What makes InnovaCare’s recovery plan unique, and what other businesses should take note of, is that the healthcare company identified three key areas to focus on in the aftermath of the storm and centered its efforts around these areas: technology, capital, and culture

By preparing in advance and keeping its focus on these areas, InnovaCare was highly successful in its recovery and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico.

When reflecting on InnovaCare’s response to the deadly storm, Shinto stated that “by showing that aggressive response, it shows commitment to the employees, to the providers, and to the community. The return on that is really worth the investment, instead of always thinking about dollars.”

How InnovaCare Overcame Challenges During and After the Storm

Hurricane Maria was a strong force. It knocked down power lines and wiped out parts of the island’s electrical grid. Roads were impassable. Communication was nearly impossible. Yet, InnovaCare continued operating its clinics and keep its managed-care plans running.

How did the company do it? First, it anticipated the problem and combatted it with technology. Given the strength of the storm, InnovaCare recognized that there was a very strong possibility that it would lose power in these areas. So, prior to Maria’s landfall, the company constructed a command center away from the path of the storm. This center was not located on the island of Puerto Rico, so it was safe from the power outage that would soon hit the nation.

At this remote location, InnovaCare’s leadership team and key employees monitored the activity and used satellite phones to communicate with other key team members in the heart of the storm. While other businesses were struggling due to reliance on cell phone and internet service, InnovaCare could still communicate and pass critical information, such as electronic health records, to its people.

In Times Like These, Cash Is King

InnovaCare also understood that it would take capital to keep its facilities up and running after Hurricane Maria. Banks would be shut down and ATMs inaccessible. With no power or internet, people couldn’t use their credit or debit cards or even access their bank accounts remotely. Cash on hand would be critical.

But InnovaCare anticipated this challenge and had cash on hand and readily available to use for the various expenses and issues that would arise. Emergency response teams were like walking ATMs. They gave employees cash to cover their personal expenses and purchase any provisions necessary to do their jobs. Plus, they allocated money in advance to InnovaCare providers so that they could take care of their patients and their own families in the aftermath of the storm.

Leaders Must Be Quick Thinkers

Puerto Rico InnovaCare Health
BARRANQUITAS, PUERTO RICO: Neighbors look on at a section of a collapsed road after Hurricane Maria hit the island. Puerto Rico had widespread damage including most of the gas, electrical and water grid as well as agriculture hits after Hurricane Maria.

Despite the numerous ways that InnovaCare went above and beyond most other businesses to prepare before the storm, the company recognized that there would still be challenges. Natural disasters can take an unexpected turn, and InnovaCare knew that it was impossible to anticipate every possible situation that could arise.

So, while the company did its best to prepare, it also focused on building a culture among company leadership to be innovative and quick thinking. This focus began long before Hurricane Maria and continues to this day. InnovaCare is very intentional with its employee development and strives to cultivate an environment where its leaders are creative problem solvers. It does this by encouraging new ideas and suggestions and rewarding its team for quick thinking.

One instance where this quick thinking paid off immensely was when the disaster team encountered a challenge that it did not anticipate. The InnovaCare team had plenty of vehicles to use for traveling to various locations to assess the damage; however, they were in short supply of gas. All of these vehicles would have been useless for the mission if it had not been for the resourcefulness of one of the company’s employees. This employee made the quick connection that there was an airport nearby; of course, at any major airport, there are also rental car companies. And rental cars stay stocked with fuel and ready to go. So, armed with this knowledge, the team readjusted its plan and was able to reach the communities and assess the damages within just days of the storm.

This culture paid off well during Hurricane Maria, and InnovaCare was able to deliver high-quality care to the victims of the storm despite downed electrical grids and cell towers and limited resources.

Puerto Rico Today

According to the LA Times, Puerto Rico lost nearly four percent of its entire population. One demographer reported that Hurricane Maria caused the greatest drop in population on record in the history of the island. Some of the drop was due to death, but also, numerous people moved away from Puerto Rico after the storm, particularly in major cities such as San Juan and Ponce.

Many people from the island migrated to Puerto Rican communities in Florida and New York. However, as the island continues to rebuild, the number of people leaving is starting to slow down. Despite the decline in population, InnovaCare remains committed to the people and providers who continue to call Puerto Rico home.

Shinto continues to find creative ways to utilize Medicaid dollars and break down old monopolies that have existed in healthcare on the island. Despite the challenges that they are facing from the government and healthcare monopolies in Puerto Rico, Shinto and InnovaCare will continue to provide excellent quality care for their customers. And they will continue to practice innovation and forward thinking when addressing these issues.

About InnovaCare Health

InnovaCare Health

As its name suggests, InnovaCare is innovative health care that is focused on providing excellent service and care to its large network of customers. Its focus is on value-based care, and it believes that when this is done right, it is to the benefit of all involved. So far, the company has impacted 500,000 lives managed through government programs. In 2017 alone, InnovaCare processed $955 million estimated claims.

In each and every diverse market that the company enters, it has established a successful track record of helping partners build their businesses and delivering high-quality, efficient care focused specifically on the populations that it serves. InnovaCare’s efforts in Puerto Rico before and after Hurricane Maria are a testament to its dedication to this mission.

InnovaCare leverages its expertise in administration and operation on a regular basis – not just during times of crisis. And it has impressive numbers to back its claims. For example, InnovaCare has managed to reduce beddays from its competitors for MSO Managed Medicaid members by 40 percent. And it has reduced admissions for members with chronic illnesses by 49 percent, all while improving its medical margins.

How does it do this? First, its leadership team has a combined experience and expertise in managed care and care delivery of over 120 years. Plus, it takes an integrated approach to managed care. InnovaCare creates a 360 degree coordinated area model. It does this by partnering with the right stakeholders. By doing so, InnovaCare can take advantage of the most innovative technology to improve the lives of its patients and provide much-needed support for the physicians that it partners with.

Shinto founded the first iteration of the company while he was a practicing physician with the North American Medical Management (NAMM) organization in California. He saw that healthcare organizations were lagging behind the changing market. Driven by a desire to find safer and more effective ways to deliver quality care, Shinto began organizing physician groups around growing operational expertise.

In 2003, NAMM became partners with the Straus Group in an acquisition. The Straus Group was led by Daniel E. Straus, a philanthropist and healthcare entrepreneur. Straus worked as a chairman on the board of the newly formed partnership, where he helped oversee the establishment of physician networks, health plans, and managed care opportunities. The new entity, still called NAMM, later acquired MMM Healthcare, a Puerto Rico-based healthcare company.

InnovaCare Health was officially founded in December of 2012 when NAMM sold off some of its properties. Since its inception, InnovaCare has continued to expand and has moved into the Medicaid market. Today, Straus continues to serve as a chairman of the board, and Shinto operates as CEO and president.

Straus and Shinto are long-time veterans of the medical industry. Shinto brings over 25 years of clinical and operational experience in healthcare. His knowledge runs deep, as he has helped manage a number of Puerto Rico-based subsidiaries. He helped create the longest-running Medicare Advantage Plan in Puerto Rico through MMM Healthcare. Shinto also serves on a number of boards, including America’s Health Insurance Plan (AHIP) and America’s Physician Groups, which are some of the most significant trade associations in healthcare. Shinto has been named one of the Top 50 Most Influential Physician Executives and Leaders in 2018.

Straus brings deep experience in managing all sorts of healthcare-oriented services. Today, he continues to serve as principal and CEO of many companies. Through his company CareOne, Straus has helped found and operate over 70 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in New England, which support over 20,000 patients each year. Outside of his medical endeavors, Straus also founded and manages The Straus Group, a firm that invests in hedge funds, sports assets, private equity, and real estate. Straus has a law degree from New York University, which he obtained before he founded MultiCare.

Contact Information for InnovaCare Health

InnovaCare Health is headquartered in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Fort Lee is a borough in the greater New York City Metroplex. To reach someone in the corporate headquarters, you can contact the company by phone or email. InnovaCare’s corporate phone number is 201-969-2300. To email the company, send inquiries to

Additionally, you can learn more about the company by visiting its website or connecting via social media. InnovaCare is on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


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