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South Carolina Senate passes bill to overhaul state health agencies

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(The Center Square) — The South Carolina Senate has passed a measure to merge several state health agencies into the Executive Office of Health and Policy, a new, cabinet-level agency.

S.915 puts the Health and Policy secretary under the governor. Proponents said the change follows years of efforts and marks the third significant healthcare reform to pass out of the upper chamber this legislative session, including a repeal of the state’s certificate of need mandate in 2023.

“An analysis of all fifty states revealed that South Carolina has the most fragmented healthcare delivery system in the nation, and predictably, poor health outcomes,” state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, chairman of the Medical Affairs subcommittee, said in a statement. With this measure, “the South Carolina Senate passed a bill to consolidate six independent, overlapping, and inefficient health agencies and create a delivery system that is responsive, effective, and accountable.”

A South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office estimate indicated the measure would carry some budget impacts, such as $10,000 in fiscal 2024-25 for the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs to change its name and logo. Additionally, the estimate revealed the “bill will result in a transfer of undetermined amount of revenue from current mental health agencies to the newly created” department in fiscal 2024-25.

The measure also stipulates that 11% of the revenue generated by the excise tax on drink sales will go to the Department of Health Financing to help South Carolinians addicted to alcohol and drugs.

Under the bill, the Department of Behavioral Health must establish an alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment initiative for public schools. It also stipulates that the General Assembly must appropriate an unspecified amount of tax dollars from the Education Improvement Act Fund for the program.

“This legislation will give citizens a more accountable, efficient, and cost-effective delivery of medical services,” Senate President Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee, said in a statement.

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