SC governor halts GHS-Palmetto Health $1.5B debt refinancing

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) — Governor Henry McMaster has denied approval of a $1.5 billion debt refinancing plan by Greenville Health System (GHS) and Palmetto Health.

Over the summer, Greenville Health System announced plans to form a partnership with Palmetto Health to create the largest healthcare system in South Carolina. But part of that restructuring includes refinancing $1.5 billion of combined debt.

In a letter dated Dec. 29, McMaster writes that requests to refinance such bonds must be voted on by council members in the county where the property is located and the public must have the opportunity to comment before a governor can approve the requests. He writes neither Oconee County Council nor Greenville County Council have approved GHS’ request to refinance its existing bond debt of $642.7 million.

Greenville County Council delayed a vote last month on the debt resolution.

McMaster also notes a pending lawsuit in which Greenville County Legislative Delegation has asked to reinstate GHS’ status as a government entity.

“I should not approve refinancing and restructuring bonds that would make county facilities in Greenville and Oconee Counties liable for PH debt when there are strong objections from both the Greenville County Council and the Oconee County Council, as well as pending litigation,” McMaster writes.

GHS has said refinancing would save $80 to $100 million in interest payments. Hospital leaders have said the debt won’t be passed on to county taxpayers. However, Greenville County Council members, including Ennis Fant and Joe Dill, have expressed concerns about the possible impact to patients.

GHS released the following statement on the governor’s decision:

We appreciate the Governor’s review of our request but are clearly disappointed by his decision. As we’ve said before, taxpayers are absolutely not responsible or liable for repayment of these bonds, and there is no additional debt being incurred. We will continue to review our options to try to save at least some portion of the $80-$100 million in reduced total interest payments that this refinancing was designed to save. And we appreciate the support we received from the Richland and Sumter county councils and their efforts to work with us to save money which would be invested in additional community benefits and expanded medical services.