Hospital Authority and Phoebe Putney Defendants Agree to Court Order Barring Them from Further Integration of Hospitals Pending Administrative Trial

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The Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County, Georgia, and Phoebe Putney defendants have agreed to halt the integration of the former Palmyra Park Hospital -- now known as Phoebe North -- with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, while an administrative law judge considers a Federal Trade Commission complaint challenging the merger as anticompetitive.

In a federal court order entered by U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands on June 5, 2013, the defendants also agreed to maintain the viability of Phoebe North until the completion of a full administrative trial on the merits and all related appeals.  The order extends a similar temporary restraining order issued by the District Court last month. The administrative trial is scheduled to begin on August 5, 2013.

The District Court was considering a complaint for preliminary relief filed by the FTC on April 20, 2011, which alleged that the deal would reduce competition substantially 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.

The Commission’s complaint was previously dismissed by the District Court, and the dismissal was subsequently affirmed by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  However, on February 19, 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the FTC, reversing the Court of Appeals by finding that the state action doctrine did not immunize the hospital acquisition from the federal antitrust laws, and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings.

The FTC’s Bureau of Competition works with the Bureau of Economics to investigate alleged anticompetitive business practices and, when appropriate, recommends that the Commission take law enforcement action.  To inform the Bureau about particular business practices, call 202-326-3300, send an e-mail to antitrust{at}ftc{dot}gov, or write to the Office of Policy and Coordination, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission, 601 New Jersey Ave., N.W., Room 7117, Washington, DC 20001.  To learn more about the Bureau of Competition, read Competition Counts.  Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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