A class-action antitrust lawsuit filed on behalf of up to 200,000 medical residents accuses hospitals of using the National Resident Matching Program to restrain wages and seeks to change the decades-old system that assigns medical students to particular hospital residency programs.
The lawsuit, filed today in U.S. District Court in Washington, names 29 hospitals and healthcare systems and the associations that sponsor the program.
It accuses the hospitals and other defendants of violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act, which prohibits unreasonable restraint of trade. The suit alleges that the defendants restrain competition by “assigning resident doctors to a single, mandatory employment position through (the matching program), depressing and standardizing wages below competitive levels by exchanging salary information and other terms of employment, and establishing and complying with the anticompetitive rules and regulations of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.”
At deadline, several associations that sponsor the matching program--including the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges--said they hadn’t seen the suit and declined to comment.
Three individual physicians are named as plaintiffs. The suit claims a potential class of plaintiffs made up of as many as 200,000 current and former resident physicians who have used the program since 1998. It seeks triple a still-unspecified amount of damages.
Mandatory assignments “prevent competition among employers for residents, enabling the hospital employers to pay artificially low wages for long hours of work, averaging less than $10 per hour,” according to the lawsuit. “Resident physicians must accept these conditions because they have no alternative.
“The resident physicians’ relatively low hourly wage rate is exacerbated by the long working hours (that) are demanded of them,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants’ anticompetitive conduct also permits employers to exploit resident physicians by routinely requiring 60 to 100 hours of work per week, or more, often including 36-hour and 48-hour shifts.”
Residents’ working hours long have been a matter of concern and debate among healthcare professionals. See related news item, “Yale-New Haven in mess over residents’ workloads.”