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Supreme Court to hear Phoebe case

On an annual basis through the life of Phoebe North’s lease, Phoebe Putney Health System officials say they will be making payments to be used for the same purposes as ad valorem tax on the properties acquired through the hospital’s purchase.

On an annual basis through the life of Phoebe North’s lease, Phoebe Putney Health System officials say they will be making payments to be used for the same purposes as ad valorem tax on the properties acquired through the hospital’s purchase.

ALBANY, Ga. — The United States Supreme Court will hear the Federal Trade Commission’s appeal of the purchase of Palmyra Medical Center by the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County.

The High Court said Monday it had granted certiorari in the FTC’s appeal of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that allowed the purchase of Palmyra, now being called Phoebe North, to go through last December.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court will consider the Phoebe Putney matter in the coming term,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. “This case is important to consumers, who benefit from a competitive health care marketplace. It also may provide crucial guidance on the boundaries of the state action doctrine.”

Phoebe Putney Health System, which is contracted with the Hospital Authority to operate Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and is the organization that the Authority wants to operate Palmyra as Phoebe North, and the Authority issued a joint statement saying that officials expect the Authority and Phoebe’s position to be upheld by the high court.

“Health care is an important matter of discussion in our country, and today we have learned at least four members of the Supreme Court have an interest in hearing elements of this case,” the statement said. “While we firmly believe the law is clear and there is no basis for change, we are not surprised by the Court’s decision to look at the ramifications of consolidation in health care. In this transaction, the Authority, a recognized entity of government as created under Georgia law, has exercised its governmental right to make an acquisition and use it for the benefit of the community’s health care needs. Established law protects that governmental right from FTC interference.

“We are confident we will prevail in this matter. This acquisition is a key part of a health care delivery plan for this region, which has contemplated having a lease in place by August 1. The focus of the Authority and Phoebe will be to continue the delivery of the highest level of quality health care for all our citizens at a fair and reasonable cost.”

The FTC contends the purchase was conducted by the health system, which it said used the Hospital Authority to avoid federal review under antitrust laws. The Authority bought Palmyra for $195 million with the transaction going through on Dec. 15 — nearly a year to the day the purchase was announced.

Last year, the U.S. District Court and 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the position of the Hospital Authority and Phoebe in that the Authority, as a state-created entity, could act without federal review. The FTC argued that the acquisition would increase medical costs and was anti-competitive, but the Appeals Court said the state of Georgia, in creating hospital authorities, was an articulated state policy to displace competition and that the Authority was immune from federal review.

The ownership of Palmyra changed hands roughly a week following the ruling from the 11th Circuit. The drafting process for a lease on the hospital is currently ongoing.

The next term of the Supreme Court starts in October.

Comments

Trustbuster 1 year, 10 months ago

I am glad the SCOTUS has decided to hear the case. I believed that they would. I'm sure it will become a landmark decision one way or the other. I hope the justices will rule against Phoebe's purchase of Palmyra. Dr. Stubbs and other members of the medical community are correct the building should be opened to competitive bidding. Phoebe has aggrandized too much power in the healthcare field through reduced competition.

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ObjectiveEyes 1 year, 10 months ago

The only problem now is, how do you unwind what has already been done? Folks are now Phoebe Putney employees, etc. If the SCOTUS reverses the purchase, do all of those people lose their jobs and Phoebe North closes? What a mess!

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Engineer 1 year, 10 months ago

Yeah, I am also kind of curious what happens to those employees if SCOTUS reverses the purchase

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 10 months ago

Well you know Phoebe hasn't put up permanent signage yet, right?

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VietVet1 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm sure most of them would gladly return as a Palmyra employee. Now doesn't that give one a breath of fresh air?

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Mr_Heatmiser 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm sure they would gladly return as Palmyra employees. One problem though: There's not a Palmyra any more. If the SCOTUS says no to the deal, it's not like things would just go back to the way they were. Most of these employees would have to find jobs elsewhere, and the facility would sit empty until another hospital system agreed to manage it. I'm not in the loop by any means, but I haven't seen or heard loads of reports about hospitals clamoring to get into the Albany market.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 10 months ago

The Phoebe statement references "the Authority and Phoebe". Bedfellows, indeed.

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Cartman 1 year, 10 months ago

The farce is exposed. Can anyone name the Hospital Authority board member who initiated the idea of buying Palmyra? There isn't one. They didn't even know about it, until Wernick decided to tell them. And why are we having public input so late in the game? Because they realized that if it was in fact, the Hospital Authority acting - public hearings are required prior to a decision involving public funds. Someone forgot to dot the i's and cross the t's. Thus we recently had a hearing to determine if Phoebe could lease the hospital from the HA, even though Phoebe already had signs up; converted the employees; ran off who was on Wernick's list; publicly announced plans for the facility; etc. This goofiness would be hilarious, if it weren't so costly to our community. The lack of action from public leadership is disturbing and pathetic.

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