Berton Forman, with a 21-year career as an anesthesiologist behind him, was reviewing hospital records for an insurance company for his company, Rockville Recovery Associates Ltd. in 2010. What he discovered was hospitals, by using separate billing codes, were double and triple billing for anesthesiology – once for the doctor and another for the hospital.
Forman designed and patented a software application that could track the billing associated with each particular patient and was able to expose the widespread and costly practice. He then became the driving force behind a pair of lawsuits involving millions of dollars in what he claimed were fraudulent anesthesia billing claims. While there were some hospitals that had no-audit clauses in their contracts with the industry, and Forman had no standing to bring suit being neither a patient nor a provider, the state of California allows anyone to bring suit if the damage affects citizens of the state.
Last year, the whistleblower case was settled for a record $46 million between the defendant Hospitals, the State of California, and Forman and his attorneys.
Forman, who graduated with a degree in chemistry from UM in 1974 before attending medical school, brought his passion for addressing this systemic wrongs to his alma mater, where he met with Marni Lennon, Miami Law’s Assistant Dean for Public Interest and Pro Bono. Lennon, who directs the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center, and Forman fell into conversation about the critical need for legal and medical education to include a dedication to principled service beyond the quest for the paycheck.
“I was very impressed by Marni Lennon who runs the Public Interest program,” Forman said. “I heard her and her agenda and was quite impressed with her take that attorneys, or law students in this case, need to be indoctrinated to some extent in things other than making money and to have more of a positive public domain influence. We talked about the essence of ethics, and I’ve never really heard that coming from a law school or any lawyers before. That impressed me.”
Forman is now living in South Florida and re-engaging with UM. Recently, Forman contributed funds to support a Miami Scholar for 2014-2015 as a first step to what he hopes will be a long and evolving relationship with Miami Law and the University at large.
“What I want to do is be a resource for the University of Miami and not just a one-trick pony with regard to the whistle blower case. But because of the case, and because I had a business as an anesthesiologist for 21 years, I also have the perspective of what it’s like to be a clinician on the front lines. I want to be able to pass on my multi-disciplinary insight to not just law students, but to business students and medical students, too,” he said.
The Miami Scholars Public Interest Program targets candidates from across the globe that have, in addition to excellent academic achievement and strong scores on the LSAT, demonstrated interest in public service. The Program offers its students exclusive opportunities for legal advocacy training and mentoring from the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center team of attorneys, including individualized curriculum advising and career planning assistance. Miami Scholars also receive mentoring by upper-class Scholars and public interest and pro bono attorneys.
“We are grateful to have Mr. Forman’s support of the Miami Scholar Public Interest Program,” said Lennon. “Miami Scholars are exceptional students who are committed to principled lawyering and ensuring that access to justice is provided to those most in need. Mr. Forman has chosen to partner with us to support a Miami Scholar while sharing his story of seeking truth and justice in a system fraught with challenges. He will serve as an example of how one can do the right thing amidst pressure to do otherwise and we are thrilled to partner with him to impart this lesson to our students.”