I shouldn’t have been surprised by the Phoebe/Federal Trade Commission deal. I was, but I shouldn’t have been. I’m a cynical, anti-government nut job and I trusted the government to look out for our best interests. Once again, they didn’t. I’ve been stewing about it since the news broke, but I’m just now putting it all down for posterity.
Joel Wernick, Phoebe’s CEO, once told me that Phoebe was simply trying to follow a path laid out by the government for region healthcare “hubs”. I saw no reason to doubt his word, though I don’t follow healthcare policy like I probably should. However, does that make the merger right?
I’ve been torn through this whole thing to some extent. For example, in a free market, companies should be free to merge as they see fit. There’s shouldn’t be an issue with one hospital essentially buying another (I don’t care that it was the hospital authority that did the buying. They do what Phoebe wants after all).
Of course, as I said throughout the process, we don’t have a free market in healthcare. Thanks to the concept of “certificates of need”, anything resembling a free market is dead when it comes to healthcare.
None of that matters. We are stuck with Phoebe.
There’s nothing wrong with Phoebe’s healthcare. They offer top notch services and have some of the best doctors in the nation. We’re fortunate to have a lot of what Phoebe offers. For me, it’s never been about the quality of care Phoebe offers. For me, it’s always been about choice.
When we have choices in our healthcare, everyone benefits. Phoebe would easily survive, even if another hospital offered all of the exact same services. They might even thrive with the competition. That’s the beauty of competition. Of course, thanks to the FTC deal, our hopes of competition are nearly exhausted.
I say “nearly” because there is still a possibility. The General Assembly could still repeal the law requiring a “certificate of need”, which creates a cap on competition. However, hospitals have a tendency to like these certificates because they decrease competition. Reduced competition is always best for the bottom line, even if it’s not best for the consumers.
Maybe we’ll see a day when we have two hospitals in town and can pick and choose from the hospitals as we see fit. That day won’t be soon enough for me, and we may never see it. Something I hope I never see is me trusting the government to look after the best interests of the people of Southwest Georgia again.