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.