This opinion-based article was previously published in the Greenville Journal on June 22, 2017.
Last week, South Carolina’s two leading health systems, Greenville Health System (GHS) and Palmetto Health, announced plans to form a new, not-for-profit health company aimed at shaping and leading the future of health care for all South Carolinians. From where I sit — first and foremost as a patient, and second, as someone who regularly hears about the impacts of health care on our business community — I see this partnership as a win-win for the Upstate and Midlands communities.
I believe this new partnership will improve our community’s health and address a major need in our state. The impact of poor health strains the limited resources of both businesses and the community overall. South Carolina regularly ranks near the bottom in national health indexes for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, pulmonary disease, and other conditions. These results are more than just statistics; they are our friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
Health care is an industry like no other. We’ve all seen the headlines and read stories about how health care needs to change. Government and private insurers are reducing reimbursement rates, our population is aging, and we are experiencing a rise in chronic diseases. There is also intense competition to find and keep the best doctors and nurses. Through this new health company, Palmetto Health and GHS will be better positioned to meet these challenges. Not only that, together they will have the resources needed to treat people who are sick while keeping people well and out of the hospital, which is exactly what our state needs.
For me, it is important that the new company will continue to be led by local board members who live and work right here in South Carolina. This will be a South Carolina-led health company, dedicated to serving the needs of all South Carolinians.
One reason local control is important is cost. We can all agree that rising health care costs must be addressed. It has become increasingly hard for families to afford care. The people of our region want access to quality health care and are rightly concerned about increasing healthcare expenses. By partnering together, GHS and Palmetto Health will create a company with the scale required to make a real difference in containing costs.
The new company will also be able to provide patients with another kind of value. This is not simply about getting bigger; it’s about taking that size and turning it into the ability to make investments. For example, the new company will have hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in new technology, facility upgrades, education programs, and recruitment of highly skilled doctors and nurses.
Additionally, these investments will spur economic development in our state. Industries like biotechnology, medical device manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies will be attracted to our state at a whole new level. That’s a win for patients and a win for job seekers.
It’s important to remember, of course, that all the possibilities and promise of the new health company must not come at the expense of those most in need. GHS and Palmetto Health have pledged a commitment to caring for all members of the community regardless of their ability to pay. Health care is a mission-driven field, and both systems will continue to deliver on their duty to serve everyone in need.
GHS and Palmetto Health’s partnership will ensure patients have access to high-quality, affordable health care now and in the future. South Carolina is fortunate to have these two world-class systems in our state. As they join to form this new health company, each will continue to make good on their promise of meeting patients’ needs and providing an outstanding community benefit. Their partnership will make South Carolina a better and healthier place for all of us to call home.