The National Resident Matching Program and Antitrust

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American Medical Association




In May 2002, a group of physicians filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) violates antitrust laws. The plaintiffs contend that NRMP practices have stabilized lower-than-competitive wages and imposed exhausting working conditions on residents. They also maintain that NRMP procedures virtually force applicants for house officer positions to forfeit their right to negotiate for better wages and conditions. The plaintiffs also allege that the defendants have collectively fostered anticompetitive accreditation standards through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Jung v Association of American Medical Colleges could present antitrust law with some difficult challenges. Although the matching program on its face appears to limit competition in a manner that previous cases have found illegal, it operates in the context of important professional activities (medical education and quality improvement) that may generate some judicial deference. At this early stage, no confident prediction can be made about the outcome of the case if it goes to trial; however, the plaintiffs appear to have a plausible case under existing antitrust doctrine, and lengthy litigation is possible. Given the important questions that the litigation will not address, such as the potential costs of a finding of illegality to the government and other payers, and the impact of such a finding on the health care system as a whole, a legislative solution seems highly desirable.

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