"ABIM’s monopoly power over certifications is undisputed. Certifications are an economic necessity for a successful medical practice. From 1936 to today ABIM certifications have assessed one thing: postgraduate medical education.Realizing that only so much in certification fees can be extracted from new residency graduates, MOC allows ABIM not only to charge internists a one-time certification fee at the outset of their practice, but to force internists to purchase MOC by revoking their “initial” certifications if they do not, requiring them to pay inflated MOC fees throughout their entire decades-long careers. The two products are separate because, in ABIM’s own words, MOC “means something different” from certifications and “speaks to the question of whether or not an internist is staying current.” (¶ 53). MOC’s true purpose, however, is to create a lucrative revenue stream for ABIM, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in new fees. (¶ 65).There are other products—not sold by ABIM—that help internists stay current, including continuing medical education products (“CME”). (¶ 54 (“MOC serves substantially the same function as CME”)).1MOC is ABIM’s fourth attempt to sell a product distinct from certifications to help keep internists current. Thousands of internists bought three previous voluntary MOC products separately from their certifications as part of ABIM’s Continuous Professional Development Program (“CPD”). (¶ 25). “Grandfathers” today also purchase MOC separately from their certifications. (¶ 35). Purchases by internists of MOC, CME, and other non-ABIM CPD products to stay current, demonstrate distinct demand for those products separate from the demand for certifications. ABIM’s earlier versions of MOC failed to generate the hoped-for revenue because ABIM did not revoke certifications of internists who did not buy them. That ABIM’s voluntary products were unsuccessful reflected internists’ preferences to buy products from others to stay current. (¶ 55). ABIM ensured, however, that MOC succeeded by tying it to “initial” certifications and making it mandatory. (emphasis mine) Plaintiffs’ claims do not threaten ABIM “standards” any more than ABIM’s earlier voluntary MOC products did. Plaintiffs ask only that ABIM’s illegal tie be severed and that MOC once again be voluntary."
In addition, the filed brief explains the basis of the RICO claims made by the physician Plaintiff-Appellants against the ABIM:
"After ABIM was unable to generate hoped-for fees from its first three voluntary MOC products sold as part of its CPD Program, it realized it must force internists to buy MOC. ABIM did so by revoking the certifications of internists who did not buy MOC. In furtherance of its scheme, ABIM waged a campaign of fraudulent misrepresentations to deceive the public, including but not limited to hospitals and related entities, insurance companies, medical corporations and other employers, and the media, that MOC, among other things, benefits physicians, patients and the public and improves patient outcomes. As a result, ABIM has collected hundreds of millions of dollars in MOC fees under false pretenses."
Finally, in regard to the unjust enrichment claim dismissed by the earlier District Court judge:
"The district court’s sole rationale for dismissing Plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment claims is its conclusion that ABIM “did not ‘force’ Plaintiffs to purchase MOC.” A-41. ABIM similarly repeats its argument that internists “chose” to “pursue and maintain their certifications.” ABIM Br. 54. Plaintiffs have already debunked this argument, and clearly allege “forcing” notwithstanding the erroneous conclusions and arguments of the district court and ABIM.
ABIM points out that certifications are not required for licensure. But it does not deny certifications are required for admitting privileges, insurance, and other requirements of a successful medical practice, and accordingly are an economic necessity. Finally, the district court opinion in In re Avandia Mtkg., No. 2007-MDL-1871, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152726 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 22, 2013), does not support ABIM, as the unjust enrichment claim there failed for several reasons not pertinent here, most importantly because, unlike MOC, the purchases were voluntary. See ABIM Br. 55-56."
With this filing, it is clear that the class action lawsuit filed by working physicians against the ABIM is far from over. Read the whole Reply Brief here.
To support the physician plaintiffs in this ongoing lawsuit, consider contributing to their GoFundMe page.