Albany, Ga – Phoebe Putney gets cast as the “evil empire” here in Albany by some who believe the hospital has gotten to big or has lost sight of what a hospital is supposed to be. Those opponents are no doubt thrilled by news that the Supreme Court has ruled against the merger of Phoebe Putney and HCA Palmyra.
Attorney arguing in favor of the merger told the court that, as the Hospital Authority actually purchased the hospital, it was exempt from anti-trust concerns, while attorney for the Federal Trade Commission who opposed the move claimed that the authority served as nothing more than a “rubber stamp” for what Phoebe wanted. The court sided unanimously with the the FTC, saying, “Because Georgia has not clearly articulated and affirmatively expressed a policy allowing hospital authorities to make acquisitions that substantially lessen competition, state-action immunity does not apply.”
The decision went on to say, “Respondents’ state-action immunity defense fails under the clear-articulation test because there is no evidence the State affirmatively contemplated that hospital authorities would displace competition by consolidating hospital ownership. The Authority’s powers, including its acquisition and leasing powers, mirror general powers routinely conferred by state law on private corporations. More is required to establish state-action immunity; the Authority must show that it has been delegated authority not just to act, but to act or regulate anticompetitively.”
One local opponent of the move, who requested anonymity due to their job’s relationship with Phoebe, applauded the move, saying, “I’m glad the Court saw things the way they are and made a move to protect our ability to seek quality healthcare at a reasonable price.”
Phoebe Vice President of marketing, Jackie Ryan, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The whole Supreme Court decision can be read here.