Antitrust suit against the Match dismissed
■ A new federal law successfully shields the National Resident Matching Program.
By Myrle Croasdale — Posted Sept. 6, 2004
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An unprecedented effort to reshape graduate medical education using the court system appears to be nearing an end. On Aug. 12, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman dismissed an antitrust lawsuit originally filed against the National Resident Matching Program, its sponsoring organizations and 29 teaching hospitals.
The decision followed the passage of federal legislation this summer aimed at shielding the Match from this lawsuit as well as any future antitrust claims.
Sherman Marek, an attorney for the three former medical residents who filed the class-action suit two years ago, said his clients were disappointed but did not consider the suit to have been in vain. They were still considering whether to appeal.
"I believe the change in ACGME work-hour guidelines stemmed from this action," Marek said. "Having said that, more remains to be done both in obtaining fair wages and safe work hours."
The ACGME announced its decision to cap medical residents' hours at an average of 80 hours a week shortly after the lawsuit was filed. However, those involved with redesigning the work-hour rules said changes had been under consideration well before the lawsuit was filed.
Thomas Campbell, attorney for the NRMP, said its officials were pleased by the outcome.
"The legislation is very helpful to the graduate medical education portion of the economy," Campbell said.
Each individual organization named in the suit hired antitrust legal counsel, involving more than 100 attorneys in the case. One attorney said costs to the teaching medical establishment were easily more than $20 million.
Plaintiffs in the case, Jung et al. v. AAMC et al., claimed the structure of the Match violated antitrust laws by requiring all U.S. medical graduates to participate in order to obtain a residency. They also claimed that residents' salaries were artificially low and work hours overly long because the structure of the program made it impossible for residents to negotiate these issues.