Phoebe North Hospital located on Palmyra Road.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Even though House Bill 230, or the hospital authority bill, failed to meet the crossover deadline, a substitute has been submitted for another House bill as a means to change Georgia law to make it easier for hospital authorities throughout the state to buy and sell hospitals without federal intervention.
House Bill 538, originally authored by state Rep. Chuck Sims, R-Ambrose, and intended to repeal a provision relating to the composition of county health boards, has been substituted with language similar to that of HB 230.
The purpose of the substitute bill is to "... clarify by declaration of the General Assembly of Georgia its intent as to the application of antitrust immunity to certain transactions relating to hospital authorities; to clarify its intent and extend antitrust immunity to certain powers relating to peer review and credentialing relating to hospital authorities; to provide for certain limitations with respect to antitrust immunity; to provide for related matters; to provide an effective date; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes."
The bill goes on to say that the intent, in part, is to articulate clearly and express affirmatively the policy of the state that hospital authorities be immune from antitrust liability to the same degree and extent as is enjoyed by the state and that such immunity extend to all actions of hospital authorities.
It goes on further to say that such immunity shall not extend to the exercise of such functions and powers by a hospital authority located in a county with more than four civilian acute care hospitals, or is located in a Georgia county that neighbors one with more than four civilian acute care hospitals -- and is both the principle site of an academic medical school and center and is a participating unit in a multicounty hospital authority.
Online records indicate that HB 538 was put into the hopper on March 4 and subsequently passed the Georgia House of Representatives on March 7.
The substitute bill was provided to The Albany Herald by a representative of Sims' office, who had received it from the legislative assistant of state District 45 Sen. Renee Unterman, chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Provided with the bill were some talking points outlining the details of the case relating to the $195 millon purchase of the former Palmyra Medical Center -- now known as Phoebe North Campus -- by the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County, which continues to be contested by the Federal Trade Commission.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a Feb. 19 ruling that reversed the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision permitting the purchase to go through and remanded the case for further proceedings. Meanwhile, a stay on the administrative proceedings relating to the acquisition has been lifted by the FTC, which is aiming to have a hearing by July 15.
HB 230 failed to make it out of committee and onto the floor for a vote before the March 7 crossover deadline, meaning it would have to remain in the hopper until next January when the House reconvenes for the second half of its two-year term.
"Phoebe believes the law should be returned to the same status it held for decades before the Supreme Court decision," said Tommy Chambless, general counsel for Phoebe Putney Health System, in a statement Friday. "The Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals led the effort and worked with its membership, which includes most of the authority hospitals in Georgia, and Chairwoman Renee Unterman to devise language to accomplish that. I was one of several persons who testified on the bill, which was also supported by the Georgia Hospital Association."
The substitute has since been tabled in the Senate's health and human services committee. Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, District 12, reportedly presented the substitute bill.
The Herald was unable to reach her for comment on Friday.