FTC's PPMH document leaves much unrevealed - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

FTC's PPMH document leaves much unrevealed

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We know more about the Federal Trade Commission's complaint against Phoebe's purchase of Palmyra Medical Center. Monday we got a look at the complaint document-- with numerous redactions.

The FTC claims the Hospital Authority has done little to police the Phoebe Putney Health System and made no effort to challenge or even evaluate Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital's most recent price increase.

The FTC claims they did the same just rubber stamping the buyout deal. They say the Hospital Authority's claims that the purchase isn't reviewable by federal agencies because it's a state created authority is false.

The 19 page complaint claims while the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County is the one acquiring Palmyra Medical Center, its on paper only.

Before the transaction was presented to the authority, Phoebe Putney agreed with Palmyra that if the Authority failed to, the rest of the statement is blacked out. If fact a lot of the document is.

The FTC contends Attorney Robert Baudino represented both the Health System and the Hospital Authority in the deal, although the Authority was unaware of his representation of the health system. Hospital officials say this isn't the first time that's been done and there's nothing wrong with it.

The FTC also claims HCA initially didn't want to sell to Phoebe in fact their business was improving and HCA expected its financial performance to continue to improve. HCA was later open to an offer for Palmyra but when it talks about what it expected, that portion is blacked out.

HCA however made it clear according to the FTC that an offer would have to meet or exceed some amount times Palmyra's annual net revenue, but that amount is also redacted.

The FTC claims that information was shared with Health System bankers who admitted it would be difficult to find an independent bank to issue a fairness opinion and that's when they say the plan was devised to have the authority purchase the hospital avoiding anti-trust issues.

In October, two members of the Hospital Authority Ralph Rosenberg, the chairman, and Dr. Charles Lingle were told of the purchase plans but signed confidentiality agreements.

The FTC believes the extraordinarily high market share easily exceeds levels that the U.S. Supreme Court has found unlawful. Because the two hospitals will operate under one lease, the FTC contends that eliminates incentives for either hospital to discount its rates in an effort to gain business from health plans and their members.

Judge Louis Sands issued a temporary restraining order putting the purchase on hold. Both sides have been asked to file their opinions next month, addressing the question of the Hospital Authority's role.

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