Abe Berman, MA, MHCDS ‘16
Regional President, Network Management UnitedHealthcare
Abe Berman doesn’t think of himself as a typical accountant. “I am a novelty seeker,” he says. “I like the challenge of taking on something that is just emerging and not well-known.” He found that in helping create OneCare Vermont, a new statewide accountable care organization for nearly half of the state’s 120,000 Medicare beneficiaries. “A lot of people in the analytical finance industry are more like, ‘What are the rules of the game?’” says Berman, now Director of Accounable Care Finance for the organization. “I am much more like, ‘Let’s throw out the rulebook and figure out what to do.’”
Berman gravitated toward the nonprofit sector after earning his masters in accountancy at Notre Dame in 2000. “I was interested in doing something more than just moving money around—I had a desire to do something more lasting in my career.” And with parents in health care—his mother was a nurse administrator and his father worked for a biomedical company—the field was a natural fit. Berman took a job as a financial analyst at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt., where he quickly got up to speed on medical terminology and coding.
However, even as he worked to help the hospital balance its books and increase revenue, he noticed inefficiencies in the system—doctors performing procedures that cost Medicare and didn’t necessarily help the patient. “It’s easy just to focus on the payments under your roof, but I began to understand that the way we are doing things doesn’t make sense,” he says. “It turns out the things I was scratching my head over were things the whole world was scratching its head over.” When Fletcher Allen partnered with Dartmouth-Hitchcock to implement the ACO for Vermont, he jumped at the chance to address health care in a more comprehensive way.
Dartmouth’s longtime focus on using data to identify health care efficiencies made the Master of Health Care Delivery Science program particularly appealing to Berman. “This program brings together clinicians, administrators, financial professionals, and policymakers who have all been observing the same problems, but didn’t know how to collaborate to solve them.” As he has worked arm-in-arm with insurers, providers, and state officials in Vermont, the program has helped Berman focus on determining the best measures to hold both providers and payers accountable. “It’s given me the insight to know and the conviction to articulate the fact that we are not looking at the right measures,” he says. “So let’s hold up and look at the things that really matter in providing the best care for patients.”