Federal judge upholds dismissal of Match lawsuit

The plaintiffs plan to take their case to a federal appellate court.

By Myrle Croasdale — Posted Feb. 14, 2005

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U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman dismissed a request to reconsider his previous August 2004 dismissal of the antitrust lawsuit against the National Resident Matching Program.

The suit, originally filed against the NRMP, its sponsoring organizations and 29 teaching hospitals, 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.

The decision follows one made in August 2004, when Friedman dismissed Jung et al. v. Assn. of American Medical Colleges et al. after federal legislation passed earlier that summer shielding the Match from the class-action lawsuits and any future antitrust claims.

The plaintiffs have filed a notice to appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals.

An attorney for the NRMP said it was possible that arguments may be made regarding whether the court acted appropriately in dismissing the class-action suit because of the new legislation, whether the plaintiff had the opportunity to file an amended complaint or whether the NRMP had a right to go into arbitration.

The lawsuit has been an expensive one for the medical establishment, with each individual organization named in the suit hiring antitrust legal counsel, at one point involving more than 100 attorneys in the case. One attorney said costs to the teaching medical establishment were easily more than $20 million.

If the plaintiffs had proven their case in court, the Match process could have reverted to the time when job offers came with short decision deadlines and students had to choose between taking their first offer or risking it to wait for a better one.

A favorable decision for the plaintiffs could have also resulted in back pay for approximately 200,000 medical residents, an action that could have gutted teaching hospitals, industry watchers said.

Since the lawsuit was put into motion, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education limited residents' hours to an average of 80 hours a week. Residents' salaries, however, have not changed significantly. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which heavily subsidizes graduate medical education, essentially capped spending at 1996 levels, which translates into limited dollars for resident salaries, according to health policy experts.

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