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      FTC challenging Phoebe-Palmyra merger in U.S. Supreme Court

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a petition on Friday with the U.S. Supreme Court to review a recent federal appeals court ruling concerning Phoebe Putney Health System's acquisition of Palmyra Park Hospital.

      On March 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 FTC 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 then 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 Dec. 9, 2011.

      The Commission vote authorizing the staff to request that the Solicitor General file the petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court was 4-0.

      In response to this action, Jackie Ryan, with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, says, "In respect to today's (Friday's) action stemming from the FTC request, we see no reason to seek review by the Supreme Court. The law is clearly articulated, as noted in the ruling by Federal Judge Louis Sands, which was upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. We will file an opposition brief in response to this."

      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.