Medical Resdients To File Class-Action Lawsuit Over Matching Program
Plaintiffs who claim to represent about 200,000 medical residents plan to file a lawsuit today in Washington, D.C., alleging that seven medical organizations and more than 1,000 private hospitals nationwide have used the National Resident Matching Program to "keep residents' wages low and hours long," the New York Times reports. The matching program, which matches 80% of medical school graduates with first-year residency programs, allows hospitals to share "detailed salary information" but does not permit residents to negotiate their terms of employment, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit, which will seek class-action status, alleges that as a result, employers "pay residents standardized salaries, regardless of such factors as program prestige, medical specialty, geographic location, resident merit and year of employment. With few exceptions, employers pay salaries very close to the national average and very close to each other. By contrast, post-residency physicians earn widely varying compensations based on these factors, especially geographic location and medical specialty." The Association of American Medical Colleges, which administers the matching program, reports that first-year medical residents who have completed four years of medical school earn an average of $37,383. Medical residents often have 100-hour workweeks and earn less than $10 per hour, the Times reports. Although the lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages, the Times reports that a court could order the defendants, which include AAMC, to pay as much as $36 billion. Lloyd Constantine, a former New York state antitrust official, said, "If this were coal or steel or autos, it would flat-out be a felony and would probably be prosecuted criminally." However, supporters of the matching program said that medical residencies "serve an important social purpose in training doctors" and should not face the same antitrust restrictions as other industries. Kevin Williams, a medical professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, said that a medical residency represents a "continuation of a medical education," not employment (Liptak, New York Times, 5/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.