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FTC considering challenging Phoebe merger to Supreme Court

— ALBANY — In an interview with the Huffington Post Thursday, the head of the Federal Trade Commission says the organization is considering challenging Phoebe Putney Health System’s merger with Palmyra Medical Centers to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In December, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Phoebe’s favor and blocked the Federal Trade Commission’s challenge of Phoebe’s $198 million buyout of its chief competitor and crosstown rival Palmyra Medical Centers.

After more than two decades of negotiations, Palmyra’s parent company, healthcare giant HCA, agreed to sell the hospital and its ancillary properties to the Hospital Authority of Dougherty County, which would then lease it to Phoebe.

The FTC, originally joined by Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, filed a formal challenge to the merger, contending that Phoebe’s purchase of the hospital would likely cause a spike in healthcare costs and would have a detrimental effect on healthcare competition throughout Southwest Georgia.

Thursday, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz told the Huffington Post that the organization was considering challenging the Court of Appeals ruling to the highest court in the land.

“If this hospital merger is allowed to go through, it’s going to give a blueprint for how to design the most anti-competitive outcome that will raise health care costs for every consumer in rural areas and small cities, and that will be a huge problem for all of us,” Leibowitz is quoted as telling the Post.

Mitchell Katz, a spokesperson for the FTC, confirmed to The Herald that Liebowitz’ comments were correct and that the FTC is continuing to weigh all of its options.

“We’re considering all of the options, and seeking review of this case by the Supreme Court is definitively an option,” Katz said. “But that decision has yet to be made.”

Phoebe officials feel differently, saying that the FTC is wasting tax dollars by continuing a fight they themselves called a legal longshot.

“Their own attorneys said early on that this was a longshot, but apparently that hasn’t stopped them from continuing to spend tax dollars fighting what has been affirmed by two different courts, and prompting us to spend millions as well,” Phoebe Putney Vice President of Legal Affairs Tommy Chambless said.

Phoebe officials maintain the position that they announced in December 2010 when CEO Joel Wernick announced plans for the merger; it’s all about a need for space.

“We have simply run out of space here at this facility and so we have turned to a facility in town who has space,” Chambless said. “The federal government has taken a position that is shared by the medical community across the country that consolidation of healthcare centers should be and is now the common practice.”

If the FTC were to seek consideration by the Supreme Court, the first step would be a consultation with the Solicitor General’s office of the U.S. Justice Department. A petition for certiorari would then be submitted to the justices who would then decide whether to hear the case.

Comments

ObjectiveEyes 2 years, 10 months ago

The Supreme Court is our only hope. The local court system has proven to be an utter failure in protecting us from the Phoebe-machine.

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whattheheck 2 years, 10 months ago

Liar, liar, pants on fire fits the claimed need well I would say. Fully support the FTC on this effort. If allowed to stand, the comment about blueprint for the future is true. However, the tentacles of Phoebe and the many others like them who stand to make millions at our expense are long and far reaching and all are working from the same playbook.. So, it may be something that never happens--too much money and power at stake on this issue.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 10 months ago

Gonna cost Wernick a few more Ben Franks to buy the next round.

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atina3438 2 years, 9 months ago

Have you forgotten that Phoebe has plenty of money??? lol

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reb_arty1863 2 years, 10 months ago

The government pi----- away billions every single day. At least give phoebe a gut ache with some of it. How can anyone look aroud a 50 mile radius and come to the conclusion that phoebe does not have a monopoly? H---, they are trying to expand to Douglas now.

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Local 2 years, 10 months ago

Just make them pay taxes on all of their properties outside of the main hospital!!

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dingleberry 2 years, 10 months ago

Not one to take up for Phoebe but they do have a number of taxable properties. Let's just make sure they pay on the former Palmyra property. You know, Joel told the Bodine he would do that if the deal went through. So let's watch the records and make sure it happens, know what I mean?

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 10 months ago

Well ol' #34 got hisself certified so anything can happen in this old world in which we live.

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KaosinAlbany 2 years, 10 months ago

I support the FTC and their efforts.

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olddog123 2 years, 10 months ago

And the FTC tries to save face again after uterly failing to win not once but twice in Federal Courts. Their biggest probem is that the FTC whole agrument falls onto trying to focus on Phoebe strong arming the Hospital Board and creating a monopoly, but their is one problem the entity they are questioning is viewed in the eyes of the law as an extention of the Georgia gov't and has certain rights to aquiring facilities so long as certain maindates are followed and guess what despite what everyone feels Phoebe followed those steps clearly. Georgia's hospital authority laws allow organizations like Phoebe to do exactly what happened here in Albany, Valdosta, Thomasvillie, and still doing in Atlanta. Please at first the FTC filed complaints in court within several weeks, its already been 3 months now since the ruling the FTC needs to quit wasting money unless they are going to come up with a better arguement than what they have done before.

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Acat_sMEOW 2 years, 10 months ago

Seems like that doctor was smarter than some of Phoebe thought. Maybe they will recruit her to see if she can help them see what Dougherty County REALLY needs in healthcare. Remember her tellling about high costs and inflated charges? They already show up on Phoebe bills and the ink is not even dry yet! We better hope she didn't leave town. Somebody please let her know we support her AND the FTC.

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pberthoty 2 years, 10 months ago

From the Websters Dictionary- Monopoly: Exclusive control of a commodity or service. Monopoly: A game played upon a board in which the players try to accumulate token real estate parcels and put each other out of business. Hmmm. Which one does Phobe fit? (take the board part out and it fits both)

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chinaberry25 2 years, 10 months ago

Phoebe ought to be paying taxes on their nursery. This is a profit organization not related to the health care of Phoebe. The state should come in and do a massive audit of Phoebe. We would all be amazed. Drs. working out of Phoebe and her buildings who have their own private practices there. The building is not taxed and DRS. are charging patients a lot more than the private sector. These are some of the things in the Phoebe Factoids. Folks, we have our head in the sand!

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atina3438 2 years, 9 months ago

Hey, the subject has cost the taxpayers a bunch thus far - might as well take it the last step. The goverment's got a lot of money!!! lol

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olddog123 2 years, 9 months ago

This whole thing is crazy, first the FTC will have to wait for first see if the Supreme Court will even give them a extention, then they will need to submit a writ of ceritori which even then does not mean that the court will hear the case, besides that the Supreme Court never rushes through any decision even when politically motivated, case in point Health Care Overhaul, it's been law know for what two years and they are just putting it on the calendar for opening statements. This is a total waste of money at a time when most politicians and agencies as all up in arms about saving money. If the FTC isnt going to present anything better than what they brought last time they will have a terrible up hill battle to fight. And guess what even if they do by some far off chance get a concession Phoebe will not be forced to give up Palmyra, no someone will have to buy the facility, and it will be nice to see who has the purse to pony up 200 million on a facility that was already loosing money.

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Justice4Moma 2 years, 9 months ago

Well i saw on the news where Hayes said this was a waist of tax payers money.Since when did any of our Officals worrie about the tax payers money?This is just like Voting,We The People deserve a CHOICE.There are some things in life more important than money.One being We all should have a Choice.I am so tired of people trying to tell me what to eat,what to wear,not to wear perfume,not to smoke,It is getting where they are making up our minds for us.And let me tell you this,I have a right to go where i like when i like as long as i am not bothering anyone else.And the Goverment dont give me that right,GOD is the onlyone who can do that.Power is going to,to many peoples heads. And if you all need money so bad,go to Cuttliff Grove,start there,and then go to all the othere money waisting ideas you all in Office have help to make. Yes there were losing money,but you have to think about why.Everytime they tried to make improvements,Phoebe would fight them on it.That is what is wrong with this town to many people in other peoples pockets.Now lets see if this one gets printed.

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Mr_Heatmiser 2 years, 9 months ago

I guess you'd all be happier if Palmyra was another super deluxe crack house, like the Heritage building, because that was pretty much the alternative to Phoebe buying the property. You seem to be forgetting that HCA wanted out of Albany, & Phoebe's purchase of Palmyra is the only thing that kept the doors open.

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Justice4Moma 2 years, 9 months ago

Yeah,HCA did want out of Albany.But you forget why.When you have a Giant like Phoebe going against you in everything you try to do to better HCA,and winning.What Choice did they have?

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