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.