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Phoebe: Appeal hearing went well

ALBANY — Following a court appearance in Atlanta on Wednesday, the attorneys representing Phoebe Putney Health System said they felt good about the prospects of a ruling in their favor that would clear the way for the Hospital Authority to purchase Palmyra Medical Center.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Wednesday in the Federal Trade Commission’s appeal of a U.S. District Court ruling that would allow the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County to purchase Palmyra without federal antitrust review.

As he was leaving the Atlanta area, Phoebe General Counsel Tommy Chambless said he was feeling “very optimistic.”

“(The judges) seemed knowledgeable about the case,” he said. “I thought it went well.

“The lawyers were well-prepared, and the court seemed interested.”

Asked when he thought a decision might be made, Chambless said it would be hard to say for certain, but did note that the decision was expected to be expedited.

“I do think that because they are expediting it, and because of their knowledge of the case, I would not be surprised if they act on it in a month to six weeks,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be quick so we can close this transaction.”

The FTC appealed a ruling made by U.S. District Judge Louis Sands in June that dismissed the agency’s claim of jurisdiction over the agreement between the authority and Hospital Corporation of America, the current owner of Palmyra.

Phoebe has argued that the authority, created under state government, has the right to buy Palmyra without federal intervention, and that the acquisition would be in the overall best interest of Southwest Georgia citizens.

Meanwhile, briefs filed by the FTC have argued that the purchase would “reward an overt scheme to evade the antitrust laws.” The agency contends that Phoebe, not the Hospital Authority, is the one with leverage in Albany over people and insurance companies, and that any statement to the contrary by Phoebe is a “smokescreen.”

Mitchell Katz, spokesman for the FTC, said Wednesday that the agency does not comment on cases that are in litigation.

Last December, the Hospital Authority announced a $195 million agreement with HCA to buy Phoebe’s for-profit competitor and consolidate health care delivery services. If the deal goes through. the county would contract with Phoebe to operate Palmyra as a not-for-profit facility that would be renamed Phoebe North.

Comments

ObjectiveEyes 2 years, 11 months ago

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a study that indicates, upon consolidation of local hospitals, prices for services rise "...at least 5% and up to 40%..." The CBS Business Network found that when hospitals consolidate, prices "...typically rise between 10 and 20%..." It wouldn't happen in Albany, would it? Naw, not as long as the "hospital with a heart" is in charge!

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sue 2 years, 11 months ago

yeah, the hospital with a heart just required a young woman with breast cancer and no medical debts to pay $5000 BEFORE they would schedule a mastectomy.

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firefly 2 years, 11 months ago

Sue, that is outrageous! And yet they treat people daily with no insurance whatsoever for FREE! Idiots.

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Darn_Yankee 2 years, 11 months ago

I have stated this before on this story and I will state it here again: hospitals in America are not immune to antitrust legislation and oversight. PPMH is not Major League Baseball or any other pro sports league who do have passes on such with regards to government restrictions on monopolization. Judge Sands stated in his ruling that PPMH is immune to antitrust legislation and then backed it up in his ruling with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo reasoning (40 pages of crap) that does not add up. The FTC saw right through such and within one week were appealing the decision by Sands to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Sounds to me like the Judge needs to review antitrust legislation again (i.e. Clayton Antitrust Act, Sherman Antitrust Act, etc.) before he makes rulings pertaining to such issues; or perhaps he was in some way persuaded to make such statements in his ruling in the form of having his back scratched and his account enlarged. Either way, PPMH is attempting to take over the medical industry as we know it in the SW Georgia area and the allowing of Palmyra to be gobbled up is bad news for the citizens of Albany as we will be the ones suffering from it. Do not just take my word for it as ObjectiveEyes (posting above) has provided enough evidence to make this point clear.

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ObjectiveEyes 2 years, 11 months ago

Albany is prety much hopeless when it comes to PPMH. Half of the population is disenfranchised with no real stake or voice in the conversation. The other half sees no harm in Phoebe's monopolistic ways. They fail to understand the negative impact PPMH has on our local economy. Health insurance premiums are sky-rocketing because of the girp it has on this region. Industries have left and are not coming back. Certainly not to blame Phoebe entirely, but, they are certainly a common denomintor. Things will only get worse if this purchase is allowed to stand. Hopefully, now that the case is no longer under the local judge's jurisdiction, justice will be served and this buy-out will be squashed. Of course, Phoebe will simply find a way around it...just like they did when their CON for a imaging center was denied.

Like Darn Yankee (let me guess, you are one that stayed) said research it for yourself.

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warmsummernight 2 years, 11 months ago

It's one thing the be the communities first choice for hospital care, but entirely another to be the communities ONLY choice. I agree with the comments of CEO Mark Rader: "Palmyra CEO Mark Rader in a statement. "The people of this community should now realize more than ever that Phoebe Putney doesn't intend to compete fairly for health care; it intends to continue to monopolize health care and eliminate the public's right to choice. What about the people that will loose their jobs if this goes through? According to some hospital talk, if you were once employed with phoebe and went to work for the competition (i.e., Palmyra or other entities) you are placed on a NO HIRE LIST. If this is true, not only does Phoebe take away your choice of hospital care, but also the choice of where you can work. Greed will be the downfall of PPMH.

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