Class-Action Suit Alleges ABIM’s MOC is a Monopoly

Four physicians have filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of more than 100,000 internists against the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). The suit alleges that the organization illegally links its board certification to its maintenance of certification (MOC) exams and activities that it charges doctors for.

The complaint, which was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s federal court, states that: “To drive sales of MOC and to monopolize the market for MOC, the ABIM has forced physicians to purchase maintenance of certification, charged inflated monopoly prices for MOC, and thwarted competition in the market for maintenance of certification.”

Results from a recent survey from MDLinx seem to support this assertion: Most physician respondents (65%) reported that the MOC exam adds no value to their practice of medicine. The survey elicited powerful responses from participants, with one respondent stating: “I found the whole exercise devoid of value, tedious, emotionally taxing, and disruptive.” Moreover, failing the recertification exam can be devastating and result in loss of hospital privileges and of reputational standing.

Marianne Green, MD, senior associate dean for medical education at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and member of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), believes the exam is critical for maintaining the integrity of the profession. She told Medical Economics, “It’s critical that we have external assessments that help us understand what we don’t know.”

In response to concerns from the medical community, the ABIM announced that it is allowing practitioners to take shorter, more frequent online exams rather than the 10-year exam.

ABIM also responded to the lawsuit – which states that complying with MOC can cost up to $40,495 for some specialists – with the following statement: “ABIM leadership, volunteers, and staff have spent the last several years working with broad segments of the diverse internal medicine community to make ABIM’s program better and enhance the value of ABIM certification.”

Sources: Medscape, December 10, 2018; Medical Economics, November 29, 2018.