Phoebe Putney fights back against FTC for ‘meddling’
Phoebe Putney Health System, Albany, Ga., has fought back against the Federal Trade Commission’s “meddling” with the $195 million acquisition of its sole competitor, Palmyra Park Hospital. In briefs filed with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Phoebe Putney defended the proposed purchase of Palmyra Park from for-profit hospital operator HCA, which the FTC told the court agreed only to sell the hospital with a promise that a public hospital authority would pay more than twice the hospital’s annual revenue. The litigation hinges on the hospitals’ argument that the deal is immune from antitrust review because the legal purchaser will be the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County, which also owns Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. “This transaction is between a willing seller, HCA, and our community’s hospital authority,” Phoebe President and CEO Joel Wernick said in a news release. “We believe the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear this transaction is beyond FTC meddling.” The FTC argues that not-for-profit Phoebe Putney Health System, which leases the hospital from the public for $1 a year, is using the hospital authority as a “strawman” to shield the sale from scrutiny. A U.S. district judge in Albany rejected that argument in June, and the FTC appealed.