Summa’s proposed acquisition by a larger Michigan-based health system will benefit consumers and employers in patient care and pricing, industry experts say.

“The more competitive a market is, the better it is for consumers and employers,” said Tom Campanella, director of the health care MBA program and a professor of health economics at Baldwin Wallace University.

It will mean more competitive health insurance premiums for employers and employees and better pricing for procedures for consumers, Campanella said.

“People will go where the value proposition is,” he said.

Bringing in a larger player like Beaumont with money will help Summa hold its own against cross-town rival Cleveland Clinic Akron General, said J.B. Silvers, a health finance professor at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management. The clinic became the minority owner of then-independent Akron General in 2014 and took over ownership in 2015.

It was not good for consumers to have one of the hospital systems in Akron weaker than the other, Silvers said.

“When the clinic came in, it was a game changer. You could maintain that two sides of town were fighting about stuff, but when you’ve got someone who brings in the big cousin from the north, it changes the balance of power for a bit. Not immediately, but over the long run, Akron General is a much stronger place than it was before,” Silvers said.

“Having two strong systems is clearly better for the consumer than one strong system, which dominates the market and dictates prices,” he said.

A potential negative for consumers is the sentimental attachment to Summa, if eventually parent Beaumont Health exerts more power over local decisions, said Allan Baumgarten, an independent analyst of healthcare markets nationwide.

“Even though I know what they’re saying local governance, local administration and local brand, at a certain point, decisions will be made in (Beaumont headquarters in) Southfield (Michigan). I don’t know if that upsets people. Hopefully, they’ll continue to be good corporate citizens with community health initiatives and perhaps even expanding that role,” said Baumgarten.

“Now that their capital worries are eased … it might free them to be a better member of the community than they’ve been in the past.”

 

Beacon Journal consumer columnist and medical reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/topics/linfisher