An 11th-hour addition to the Pension Funding Equity Act could end a 2-year-old antitrust challenge of the National Resident Matching Program, Modern Healthcare has learned.
President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law next week; it was passed by Congress on Thursday. A provision added while the bill was in conference committee exempts residency matching programs and sponsors from antitrust laws.
The exemption applies except in the case of price-fixing, said attorney Sherman Marek of Chicago, who represents plaintiffs in the antitrust case.
The 54-year-old matching program is used to place graduating medical students in residency programs around the country.
Marek said he expects the antitrust challenge to continue because of the exemption for price-fixing claims. However, the matching program's attorney, Thomas Campbell of the Chicago office of Gardner, Carton & Douglas, said: "This will be a death blow to the plaintiffs' antitrust case."
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, alleges that hospitals in the matching program depress and standardize wages "below competitive levels" by exchanging salary information and other employment terms.