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FTC moves forward to block Phoebe/Palmyra merger

The FTC is moving to lift a stay on a review of the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County's purchase of the former Palmyra Medical Center, now known as Phoebe North Campus.

The FTC is moving to lift a stay on a review of the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County's purchase of the former Palmyra Medical Center, now known as Phoebe North Campus.

ALBANY, Ga. — The Federal Trade Commission has moved to lift the stay on administrative proceedings in connection to the purchase of the former Palmyra Medical Center, stating a hearing on the matter ought to be held no later than July 15.

An order issued Thursday states that the FTC had stayed administrative proceedings in the case pending the appellate resolution of a collateral federal court action. Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the agency, the commission was moved to lift the stay and order a resetting of the administrative hearing schedule.

“Time is of the essence because ‘this is now a consummated acquisition in which significant integration of hospital assets and operations — and likely, interim harm to competition — may have taken place,’” the FTC commissioners wrote in the order.

The motion was granted, which directs Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell to hold a scheduling conference to reset the necessary scheduling deadlines, including a new hearing to begin as soon as practicable but no later than July 15 — noting that Phoebe’s sole ground for opposing lifting of the stay, that it would be premature because the Supreme Court’s decision is not yet final, does not withstand scrutiny.

The order also states that Phoebe has not indicated an intention to file a motion asking the High Court to reconsider its ruling, and has not provided any grounds for the Supreme Court’s reconsideration.

“Our attorneys have been notified of the order to lift the stay. This was expected as a part of this process. Matters now move into a resumption of the discovery process in preparation for a hearing. We look forward to demonstrating the substantial benefits that have accrued and will accrue to the community we serve as a result of this acquisition by the (Hospital) Authority (of Albany-Dougherty County),” stated Tommy Chambless, general counsel for Phoebe Putney Health System.

When Supreme Court rulings come through, both parties have a 25-day period following the ruling to ask the justices to reconsider. If the justices were to opt to not reconsider the ruling in this case, the decision would then be final — and it would end up back in the hands of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

An administrative complaint was issued by the FTC on April 19, 2011, contending that the then-proposed acquisition of Palmyra by the Hospital Authority would reduce competition substantially and allow for raised prices for general acute-cure hospital services charged to commercial health plans in Albany.

An administrative hearing was initially scheduled for Sept. 19, 2011.

The FTC filed a preliminary injunction complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia on April 20, 2011 to request that the purchase be halted pending resolution of administrative proceedings. U.S. District Court Judge Louis Sands ruled that the purchase was immune from federal intervention.

The case then went to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed Sands’ ruling and allowed the $195 million acquisition to go through in December 2011. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, which resulted in a Feb. 19 ruling reversing the lower court’s decision that directed the case be remanded for further proceedings.

A spokesman for the FTC said Friday that, other than the order, the agency would not be commenting.

Comments

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 4 months ago

I wish they would put the Hospital Authority members in jail for a year or two.

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D_Zaster 1 year, 4 months ago

This will be interesting to see how the FTC will propose getting the toothpaste back into the tube.

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Trustbuster 1 year, 4 months ago

The FTC should end Phoebe's corporate fascism.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 4 months ago

Well at least for now it seems the FTC controls the agenda. Seems like those Phoebe HS lawyers are always looking forward to the opportunity of convincing somebody of the value and honor of their conduct. They might should have started out doing that before they plunged full speed ahead in the Palmyra acquisition. The FTC appears to be heading in the direction of exacting some revenge if not blood. Doesn't sound too much like Andy Jackson redevivus anymore. I suppose that Nine to Zip ruling has settled in. I wish there was someway to force a serious discussion about the reformation of the Hospital Authority.

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Cartman 1 year, 4 months ago

Perhaps management can be removed from both hospitals. Wipe the board clean and begin anew.

Well. I can dream - can't I?

Thank goodness for the FTC. They have done what local taxpayers, citizens, and residents were not able to accomplish.

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RedEric 1 year, 4 months ago

What good would it do at this point to prevent the sale? Just turn some hospital board hostages over to the newly formed Citizens for Truth group who will deal with the hostages according to the by laws of the group if anything considered a monopoly maneuver is detected. OK?

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Oldguy 1 year, 4 months ago

"An order issued Thursday states that the FTC had stayed administrative proceedings in the case pending the appellate resolution of a collateral federal court action. Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the agency, the commission was moved to lift the stay and order a resetting of the administrative hearing schedule."

What the heck does this say in plain English?

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FryarTuk 1 year, 4 months ago

Slow morning so I propose the following to settle the illegal* merger: 1. Re-organize the Hospital Authority with a completely new board appointed by an independent party. The Authority will have complete autonomy and authority over all hospital and health system assets. 2. All assets of PPHS are surrendered to the Hospital Authority. 3. PPHS is dissolved in favor of the Hospital Authority. 4. The Hospital Authority establishes two non profit community hospitals independently functioning. 5. Administratively combine out patient facilities and services with out of County Hospital management much like an HMO/PPO. 6. All property and facilities not directly serving inpatient clients cease to be tax exempt. 7. The only way for this to be resolved equitably is for the Hospital Authority to function totally independent of PP Health System. IMO

*regulatory not criminal

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whattheheck 1 year, 4 months ago

The issue is greater than Phoebe, if you can believe anything can be greater. The identical problem is occurring nationwide. As the limited competition already existing everywhere is reduced, national healthcare costs will go though the roof. Look at what Phoebe has done to healthcare here and picture the same elsewhere, it is and has been going on for years.

Locally, look at the tax base where property of doctor's was formerly taxed as any other business. Put the same property in the name of Phoebe or the Hospital Authority and the property becomes tax exempt--nothing has changed except the name of the owner but all taxes go away. The clientele remains the same. We are being decimated by our own hospital authority and the Board of Tax Assessor's application of GA exemption laws. We have created a monster that consumes us from the inside out as we get "world class medicine" at "out of this world" cost.

From a legal standpoint, we have created, through stupidity and naivety, something that enriches itself at our expense and which likely cannot be controlled. Reminds me of Jack and the Beanstalk, the public being Jack with a dull pin knife. Is there an out on this whole situation of will the giant squash us flat?

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chinaberry25 1 year, 4 months ago

Phoebe should be made to close the doors of Phoebe North until it is resolved. Right now they are in violation of law.

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Jax 1 year, 4 months ago

Yeah, that'd show 'em. Phoebe sure would be sent reeling from that one!! North's patients and employees would be fine, I'm sure, out on the street.

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Cartman 1 year, 4 months ago

We need a Hospital Authority that is not a cast of Phoebe puppets. I like FryarTuk's suggestions.

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