The Federal Trade Commission has reportedly filed a brief with the Supreme Court as part of their efforts to block the merger of Phoebe Putney and Palmyra hospitals. This is the latest salvo in a fight that first started in April of last year as the FTC sought to prevent what they argued was a monopoly of healthcare in the Albany area.
“Respondents orchestrated a transaction through which PPHS (Phoebe Putney Health System) was to acquire control of Palmyra from HCA (Hospital Corporation of America), giving PPHS an absolute monopoly in the market for inpatient general acute-care hospital services sold to commerical health-care plans and their customers in Dougherty County,” the FTC said in its brief.
On of the primary issues the Court will address is the state action doctrine. This is an idea where federal antitrust laws do not apply to the anti-competitive conduct of certain public entities created by a state provided that the action is authorized as a part of state policy to prevent competition, and that policy is clearly stated and expressed in state law.
However, the FTC reportedly believes that the state action doctrine doesn’t apply because the Georgia has not clearly stated any such intent regarding hospital services. It goes on to say that the relevant state law provisions do not suggest, let alone clearly articulate, any legislative intent to displace competition in the provision of hospital services.
Phoebe is expected to provide their brief to the court by October 1.