SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Sanford Health and the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society look like they are headed for a merger.

Membership of the Good Samaritan Society, commonly know as Good Sam, approved the partnership on Tuesday, June 26, while Sanford's board approved the merger last week.

A regulatory review by the Federal Trade Commission is needed to finalize the deal.

Leaders of the two organizations said in a news conference in Sioux Falls Tuesday that it was a new way to work together, rather than alone, to provide care to senior citizens who will be increasing in numbers in the coming years as baby boomers age.

"This forward-thinking plan will become a national model to serve communities with exceptional care and value through the full spectrum of one's life," said Kelby Krabbenhoft, president and CEO of Sanford, as Sanford offers care from its birthing centers and now to Good Sam's nursing homes.

Krabbenhoft and David Horazdovsky, president and CEO of the Good Samaritan Society, said more details on how the merger will actually work are still being discussed.

In response to a question, they did not say if there would be any job cuts, but said that and many other issues would be part of any discussion as they move forward. But they said they hope to expand operations rather than make any cuts.

Sanford employs 28,000 people in the Dakotas and seven other states, providing clinic, hospital and health insurance services while Good Sam has 19,000 employees and operates in 24 states offering senior care services.

Both organizations, which the leaders emphasized have survived for decades under all kinds of situations, have headquarters in Sioux Falls. Sanford's roots date back to 1894 when the Sioux Falls hospital opened, while Good Sam was founded in 1922.

The merger is a partnership and there is no financial exchange in the deal, said media officials after the news conference.

The FTC still needs to be involved, said Krabbenhoft, as the merger involves a "$6 billion company and almost 50,000 employees."

Wanting to discuss more about the benefits to its patients than finances and employment, Krabbenhoft and Horazdovsky said they were both nonprofit operations and were interested in solutions to health care for older residents.

"We'll be thinking differently about health care delivery," Krabbenhoft said.

Despite more details to come, the two organizations stated in news releases that they have spent considerable time seeking to discover ways to better serve communities. Sanford and Good Sam leaders found each organization wants a more integrated, community-based health system with the opportunity to care for individuals through the entire span of life.

"Our membership affirms what we believed at the onset of our discussions with Sanford, by bringing the expertise of the professionals at the Society together with the health care experts at Sanford, not only will there be benefits for those we serve but also the organizations are stronger together," said Horazdovsky.

Through the partnership, they said it was possible Sanford's 1,400 doctors could be more accessible to Good Sam nursing home patients and that perhaps rural nursing homes and even hospitals could be saved from closing.

Krabbenhoft said with Sanford researching genetics and stem cells to help patients and others having troubles with eyesight and organ failure as they age, they see this as an opportunity to provide better care by working together.

The organizations said they will keep their names and the two leaders will continue in their jobs.

The merger is expected to be completed by Jan. 1.