Judge rules against FTC for Phoebe Putney merger to proceed

In a win for the hospital operator, a U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday ruled against the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in favor of Phoebe Putney Health System to continue a hospital merger in Georgia. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision and said the sale was not subject to federal antitrust oversight, reports the Associated Press (AP).

The FTC in April challenged Phoebe Putney's proposed acquisition of rival Palmyra Park Hospital from HCA, arguing it would raise the prices of general acute care services for health plans. The FTC called the deal a "monopoly" because it would "cause consumers and employers in the Albany region to pay dramatically higher rates for vital health care services, and will likely reduce the quality and choice of services available in the community as well," Richard Feinstein, director of the FTC's bureau of competition, said in a statement.

In June, a district court judge granted Phoebe Putney's motion to dismiss the FTC's complaint, which the FTC appealed in August to block the $195-million purchase. Last week, the court denied the FTC that appeal.

"We remain very concerned that it will raise healthcare costs dramatically in Albany, Georgia. We are considering all our options," the FTC said in a statement Friday.

For more information:
- read the FTC press release
- here's the AP news brief
- check out the appeal (.pdf)

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