Is change on the hospital and health insurance horizon here?

As the national battle over health care insurance wages with the U.S. House’s recent narrow approval of the American Health Care Act in an attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, expect some changes on the medical care/hospital services horizon in Northcentral and Central Pennsylvania.

We’re getting unconfirmed reports of significant change as follows — and we pose them as questions since we cannot confirm them:

r Is nonprofit, Danville-based Geisinger Medical Center trying to acquire nonprofit Jersey Shore Hospital?

r Is nonprofit UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), which has purchased Susquehanna Health, looking to now also buy for-profit Lock Haven Hospital? We were encouraged that this is true due to comments by Steve Johnson, UPMC Susquehanna CEO, who talked of a “UMPC ‘micro-hospital’ in Clinton County” during a recent speech in Williamsport.

r Is Lock Haven Hospital eyeing the Clinton Plaza as a location to move its Haven Medical Center physician services group as a result of being abruptly kicked out of the building the group rents at 208 E. Church St.?

r As a result of Geisinger Health Plan and Highmark announcing a landmark collaboration (see Page A2 in today’s edition), will we see construction of a new hospital or medical services facility somewhere in Lycoming County to compete with UPMC Susquehanna?

Yes, folks … the health care industry is heating up in Central Pennsylvania.

More questions:

r Are rumors that Geisinger is refusing to honor UPMC health insurance true?

r Plus, is Geisinger Health Plan refusing to negotiate a contract to allow UPMC Health Plan patients to be seen at Geisinger Medical Center and its clinics?

r If that is the case, what are UPMC-insured patients who rely on Geisinger services to do?

Friction between Susquehanna Health and Geisinger from the past has been documented, but thankfully, both sides worked out agreements so that patients are best served.

Will that again come to fruition now that UPMC is in the market via Williamsport, Divine Providence and Muncy Valley Hospitals and the many, many UPMC Susquehanna-affiliated physician groups?

Feeding fuel to this UPMC-Geisinger fire is UPMC Susquehanna’s declared intent to become a trauma center at Williamsport Hospital — thus competing with Geisinger’s trauma center at Danville.

We’re not suggesting the national debate over Obamacare and health insurance in general has anything to do with the developments described above.

But competition begets progress.

The Geisinger and UMPC systems — hospitals, clinics and health insurance plans — are world class and Pennsylvania is blessed to have them.

Stay tuned.