Saturday, April 10, 2004

More on the pension bill that may kill the antitrust challenge to The Match.

AP has picked up the story that first appeared yesterday in Modern Healthcare. There seems to be some confusion as to whether the about-to-become-public-law would actually apply to the pending lawsuit, in light of its statement that "Nothing in this section shall be construed to exempt from the antitrust laws any agreement on the part of 2 or more graduate medical education programs to fix the amount of the stipend or other benefits received by students participating in such programs." Predictably, plaintiffs' counsel alleges that his complaint states just that: a price-fixing claim. You be the judge and read the complaint. There certainly are allegations that the participants in the match "fixed" resident compensation, and believes their complaint will survive:
First, the legislation contains an explicit exception stating that it does not apply to price-fixing claims and Judge Paul Friedman noted in a recent ruling that plaintiffs have brought such a claim. Senators Bingaman and Feingold both noted on the Senate floor that the legislation does not apply to the residents' lawsuit.

Second, any legislation depriving tens of thousands of medical residents of the same antitrust protections enjoyed by all other Americans would be unconstitutional. At stake are not only the constitutional rights of medical residents, but the rights of workers in all other industries where employers have the political clout to force unfair wages through price-fixing and cover it up with secretive, insulating legislation.
Despite the experience of Sen. Bingaman's wife, Anne, in heading the Antitrust Division of DOJ during the Clinton Administration, Bingaman's and Feingold's comments may not amount to much, considering their opposition to the inclusion of this provision in the pension bill. But they do have a point . . . .

In the district court's opinion (undated, but handed down Feb. 21, 2004), the court noted (beginning at p. 60) that "Plaintiffs raise one claim of price-fixing against all defendants under Section 1 of the Sherman Act." In response to motions to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, the court wrote that it "concludes that plaintiffs adequately have alleged a common agreement to displace competition in the recruitment, hiring, employment and compensation of resident physicians and to impose a scheme of restraints, which have the purpose and effect of fixing, artificially depressing, standardizing and stabilizing resident physician compensation and other terms of employment among a number of the named organizational defendants and those institutional defendants that participated in the Match Program."
posted by Tom Mayo, 2:56 PM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter