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FTC, Phoebe case set for arguments

Phoebe North Hospital located on Palmyra Road.

Phoebe North Hospital located on Palmyra Road.

ALBANY, Ga. — The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the Federal Trade Commission vs. Phoebe Putney Health System case on Nov. 26, court records show.

The case stems from the FTC's opposition to the purchase of Palmyra Medical Center — now Phoebe North — by the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County, which also has ownership of not-for-profit Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.

The high court agreed to hear the case in June after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that the purchase of Palmyra was immune from federal intervention — upholding an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Louis Sands that exempted the purchase under the State Action Doctrine.

The FTC is arguing that the State Action Doctrine does not shield the transaction because it contends the state of Georgia has not articulated an intent to displace competition in the market for hospital services. It also argues that relevant state law provisions do not suggest any legislative intent to displace competition in the provision of hospital services.

The $195 million purchase went through within a week of the 11th Circuit's ruling. Local officials have since announced plans to convert Phoebe North into a free-standing women's and children's center.

Since the FTC filed its brief on Aug. 20, there have been several amicus briefs filed in connection to the case. The American Antitrust Institute, a group of economics professors, a group of 20 states, the National Federation of Independent Business and Drs. Joseph Stubbs and Corleen Thompson have filed briefs in support of the federal agency's case.

The American Medical Association and the Medical Association of Georgia have filed an amici brief in support of neither party.

The deadline for Phoebe to file its brief is Oct. 1, after which amicus briefs supporting Phoebe and the Hospital Authority's position are likely to be filed.

Jackie Ryan, vice president of corporate strategy at Phoebe, said that officials with the hospital have not received formal notification of the hearing being scheduled, but did anticipate it taking place in November.

Asked to comment, Ryan said that Phoebe would be standing by its previous comments in regard to the case.

Officials with the FTC also declined to comment.

Comments

Cartman 2 years ago

Phoebe is lucky that this case never got to a jury trial here. They've taken a perfectly respectable public hospital with great employees, and ruined its reputation in its own home community with their arrogant attitude and profit-maximizing financial power-plays. I hope the Supremes put them in their place.

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nofreeloader 2 years ago

I believe they will be sent packing back to 3rd ave. I think it's sad they lied to the employees of palmarya that they wouldn't lose there jobs.Many have had to move to other areas an some lost income because it was part time be cause their full time was at pheobe an they coulnt keep the same rate of pay.. hog wash i hope when the sale dosen't go thru a class action suit is taking up from the previous employees.. we need 2 hospitals

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BettyBowTie 2 years ago

We definitely need two separately owned hospitals. The public is never well served by a monopoly. Funny how Phoebe used CON laws to keep Palmyra and others form having obstetric units and surgical centers, funny how after Phoebe took over we now need another OB unit.

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BettyBowTie 2 years ago

But Phoebe is the only one laughing.

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Terry.Lewis 2 years ago

That remains to be seen.

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FryarTuk 2 years ago

In the event FTC wins what is the remedy for PPMH's violating the law? Do they have to give it back? I don't think so. SCOTUS does not impose penalties. Does it come back to Judge Sands' court. That'll be a joke.

Does SCOTUS ruling only impact future merger activity? If so, PPMHS has de facto won the case even though they lost the decision. I'm not taking sides. I just want to know.

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Ginger 2 years ago

I was a Palmyra supporter, but have to now admit I have changed my mind and support Phoebe in this deal. Here is why:

Industries closing: For those scared that having only one hospital is going to run off industry.. hello? we've lost industry here when we had two. Maybe consolidation will acutally help with healthcare costs. Can't hurt to try at this point. HCA: they're not coming back..ever. They cashed their check. I was visting a friend at Palmyra before the acquisition and was stunned at how antiquated the place was. HCA obviously quit investing in Albany long ago. Numbers: I read recently how low the volume at Palmyra was. They have floors completely empty.
Phoebe: I have no doubt they'll fix the place up, fill the rooms, and make it special. It is what they do. Two Hospital towns: We all would love another hospital to compete..so why not have three, or four? Fact is, we're a small town and it isn't feasible. What about Thomasville, Valdosta (bigger than Albany), Tifton, Columbus (3 of 4 one owner), and others all are one hospital towns. It is what it is. Closing: I worry that if the courts rule against Phoebe, that place will close. Who would want to buy an out dated hospital whose market share is low and whose competitor is has all the bells and whistles - in a non growing area with high poverty?
I'm sure many will find fault with my logic, but it is time to put this behind and look ahead. Ginger

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FryarTuk 2 years ago

I understand your point and saliently made. However, Is the remedy for FTC prevailing to close Palmyra Hospital or PPMH divesting it? Does the case revert back to Judge Sands court for disposition? He has in essence been slapped down since SCOTUS agreed to accept the case. Conceivably if there had been no problem with his ruling they would not have taken it.

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