The announced merger of two of Southeast Michigan’s largest healthcare systems Wednesday is expected to have little effect on the University of Michigan Health System, experts say.

Beaumont and Henry Ford Health Systems signed a letter of intent on Wednesday to combine their operations into a single $6.4-billion non-profit organization to prepare for the anticipated economic stress of fully implementing the Affordable Care Act in 2014.

The new entity will unify executive leadership as well as all assets, liabilities and operations by combining 10 hospitals and 200 other patient care sites. According to the new partnership’s website, the merge is a response to the dramatic change and shift in the way health care is measured, financed and sought after as it moves toward outpatient services.

The University of Michigan Health System said in a statement that it expects collaboration between UMHS, Beaumont and Henry Ford to continue despite the merger.

The statement acknowledged the strength of Beaumont and Henry Ford’s reputations and added that in the past the three hospitals have worked together on “clinical quality improvement projects, research studies, disaster preparedness and some specialized clinical services.”

Beaumont had been discussing a merger or affiliation with several different health systems, including UMHS, Crain’s Detroit Business reported Wednesday.

According to the partnership’s website, employees will no longer be considered employees of Henry Ford or Beaumont Hospital, but will become the staff of the newly combined health care system, though the name is not yet determined.

Business Prof. Jeff DeGraff said a merger between the two hospitals was inevitable, and the entities developed the collaboration to improve their ability to negotiate with insurance companies, reduce redundant costs and eliminate the growing overlap in their markets.

He said insurance negotiations are driven by the number of “covered lives” a health system has, meaning that the more people a hospital serves the greater its bargaining power with insurance companies. This allows health systems to lower their service costs.

Because the two hospitals were spending a significant amount of money in the other’s markets, the merger allows them to combine their forces and collaborate instead of compete, DeGraff said.

“There is a political and moral reasoning behind it,” DeGraff said. “I can’t imagine five years out that this cross penetration of markets would go anywhere.”

Henry Ford and Beaumont executives have promised to avoid big layoffs or closures due to the merging process, according to the Detroit Free Press. Patient access to clinicians and their insurance coverage plans are also expected to remain untouched by the merger.

However, DeGraff said it is likely employment will be altered.

“Usually when there is a merger, they always say there won’t be a loss in employment,” DeGraff said. “But there always is.”

The partnership’s website states that the Beaumont-Henry Ford entity will keep medical education as a remaining priority and mission for the system by continuing their independent residency and fellowship programs. The new organization is also expected to better coordinate patient care, increase accessibility, attract medical talent and keep electronic records that will allow for readily accessible patient information.

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