On February 19, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a major antitrust decision limiting antitrust immunity for state-sanctioned conduct. The court unanimously overturned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling allowing Phoebe Putney Health System Inc. to acquire its only competitor. The Eleventh Circuit had previously stated the acquisition was permissible under the state-action doctrine. In its opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that the granting of mere general corporate powers to government entities under state law does not offer blanket protection from the antitrust laws. The Supreme Court emphasized that immunity from the antitrust laws is “disfavored” unless a state intended to displace competition. In so ruling, the Supreme Court has further limited the ability of health care and other entities to rely upon the state-action immunity doctrine to avoid antitrust entanglement.
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