Defendants asked for the dismissal of a 2-year-old antitrust challenge of the National Resident Physician Match, arguing that a new law provides an antitrust exemption to such programs and their sponsors.
The Pension Funding Equity Act, signed April 10, contained a late addition that established the exemption and made it retroactive to pending litigation. Defendants' lawyers said the exemption effectively ends the challenge. But the plaintiffs' attorney, Sherman Marek of Chicago, said the lawsuit challenges some mechanisms not protected under the law.
"If the legislation has any effect at all, and we don't believe it will, it would at most affect only a part of the claims," Marek said.
Three physicians filed the antitrust suit in U.S. District Court in Washington in May 2002 on behalf of 200,000 current and former residents. The suit alleged that the system for matching graduating physicians to residencies is used by hospitals to keep residents' wages artificially low and their work hours excessively long.
Four of the program's five sponsors previously were dismissed from the suit, as well as two of the 29 teaching hospitals that also were named as defendants.