The Federal Trade Commission and Phoebe Putney Health System are in settlement talks to resolve a bitterly disputed court battle over a $200 million hospital acquisition in southwest Georgia.
The FTC and Albany, Ga.-based Phoebe Putney have already been to the U.S. Supreme Court in their two-year battle over the question of whether Phoebe Putney, the market's dominant healthcare system, can buy its crosstown rival, Palmyra Medical Center, from HCA. The deal to buy the 102-bed hospital was completed in 2011. But Phoebe Putney was then prohibited from consolidating with Palmyra until the final outcome of antitrust litigation was determined.
More than 350 hospitals changed hands nationally in 2012, thanks to a host of economic pressures that make membership in a larger system more attractive. While some market forces favoring consolidation arise from the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many predated the law. FTC officials have ramped up antitrust review of hospital deals and made clear that a mandate for reform does not supersede monopoly concerns.