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Sanford Health and Good Samaritan Society Finalize Merge, Look to Legislative Session

It’s official: Sanford Health and the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society finalized their merge on the first of the year. Together they employ nearly 50 thousand employees across more than 20 states, providing healthcare to patients from birth to old age. But as nursing homes continue to face financial struggles in South Dakota, the organizations expect to work closely with state legislators to prevent further closures. 

More than half of all nursing home residents rely on Medicaid, which means long-term care facilities rely on state reimbursement rates to cover those patients. South Dakota has one of the lowest Medicaid reimbursement rates in the region. The South Dakota Healthcare Association shows facilities lose an average of about $32 a day per Medicaid-eligible patient—equaling a loss of millions a year statewide.

Randy Bury is the former chief administrative officer of Sanford Health, and he’s recently been named president of the Good Samaritan Society. He says long-term care providers have been warning about low reimbursement rates for years.

“Now we’re seeing closures around the state, and that is only gonna continue," says Bury. "If we just stay the course, we’re gonna continue to read it in the papers, there’s gonna be disruption of services for these residents out in rural communities, and that’s the course we’re gonna be on unless we come up with a change and say, ‘Look, we’ve gotta find some additional dollars for that Medicaid rate.'”

Three South Dakota nursing homes have closed in the last three years, with several more at risk. David Horazdovsky remains CEO of the Good Samaritan Society. He says the issue is more than numbers: it’s people.

“When communities are impacted—where there’s grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, parents that are impacted by policy or lack thereof—it becomes a very real issue for our communities," says Horazdovsky. "And certainly both organizations are committed to do all we possibly can for rural South Dakota. But we need—it’s a partnership.”

Horazdovsky says they can’t solve the problem without the state, and Randy Bury agrees. Bury says they plan to be very active in working with state lawmakers during the legislative session to pursue a solution to the issues facing long-term care.