The American Hospital Association and other sponsors of the National Resident Matching Program challenged their alleged culpability in an antitrust case against the match program and the court's jurisdiction to hear the case.
The lawsuit was filed in May in U.S. District Court in Washington by four former resident physicians on behalf of 200,000 current and former residents. It alleges the program, its sponsors and participating hospitals illegally restrained competition in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Defendants include 29 teaching hospitals, the match program and its sponsors -- the AHA, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, American Board of Medical Specialties, American Medical Association, Association of American Medical Colleges and Council of Medical Specialty Societies.
According to the lawsuit, the program, its sponsors and participating hospitals collude to depress wages by exchanging salary information and assigning resident doctors to a single, mandatory employment position. With no competition, residents must accept wages averaging $10 per hour for workweeks ranging from 60 to 100 hours, the lawsuit says. It seeks both monetary damages and an end to the allegedly illegal practices.
The match program would rather take the matter to arbitration, which is cheaper than lawsuits and faster for all parties, said Thomas Campbell , an attorney for the program, of the Chicago office of Gardner, Carton & Douglas. It is seeking both dismissal of the suit and an order for arbitration. All residents enrolling in the match program sign an agreement to submit disputes to arbitration, Campbell said.
Meanwhile, the AHA, the AAMC and other program sponsors told the court they aren't appropriate targets for the lawsuit because it doesn't allege specific wrongdoing by the organizations. The defendants were required to respond to the suit by Sept. 9 and a judge will rule on the motions after the plaintiff physicians have responded, AHA Corporate Counsel James Henderson said.
Gregg Levy, an attorney with the Washington office of Covington & Burling, represents 16 of the teaching hospitals with graduate residency programs. Levy said the hospitals contend they are not in the court's jurisdiction because they don't do business in the District of Columbia and don't have offices or employees there.
At deadline, attorneys for the physicians could not be reached for comment.