Statement of FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz on the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of the Commission in the Phoebe Putney/Palmyra Park Hospital Case

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Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz issued the following statement concerning today’s unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Phoebe Putney Health System’s acquisition of Palmyra Park Hospital in Albany, Georgia.  The Court decided that the state action doctrine did not immunize the hospital acquisition from the federal antitrust laws.

“Today’s ruling is a big victory for consumers who want to see lower health care costs, and the Court’s opinion will ensure competition in a variety of other industries, as well.”

On April 20, 2011, the FTC filed a complaint in federal district court against Phoebe Putney’s acquisition of Palmyra, seeking to block the proposed combination of the only two hospitals in Albany.  The Commission alleged that the deal would reduce competition significantly and allow the combined Phoebe/Palmyra to raise prices for general acute-care hospital services charged to commercial health plans, harming patients and local employers and employees.  On June 27, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Albany Division, dismissed the FTC’s complaint and denied its motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the deal from going forward. 

The FTC appealed the district court decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which affirmed the judgment of the district court on December 9, 2011.  On March 23, 2012, the Commission authorized the staff to request that the Solicitor General file a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court, which subsequently agreed to hear the case.

The FTC currently has another case pending before the Supreme Court concerning an alleged anticompetitive pay-for-delay agreement involving the testosterone replacement drug AndroGel.

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