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Watch the details — and the show

By - Last modified: June 13, 2013 at 9:24 AM
Heather Stauffer
Heather Stauffer

I tend to think of the United States as a pretty homogeneous place, but the health care marketplaces are doing a valiant job of reminding me how much diversity of laws and conditions we really have.

So far, preliminary individual rate announcements have been dribbling out slowly, one state at a time, and most have gotten their own round of press. They've been from states that opted to run their own marketplaces and, as this explains, extreme rate shock has been conspicuously absent. California in particular was notable; you've probably heard that rates there may decrease, although that depends on whom you're listening to.

The thing to remember through all of this is that health insurance is not one-dimensional. Premiums are important, yes, but so are deductibles, networks, out-of-pocket maximums and covered services. Existing state insurance regulations and even the structure of the marketplace matter materially. In short, there aren't going to be a lot of absolute apples-to-apples comparisons out there, and so the more factors an analysis includes, the more likely it is to give you an accurate picture.

Anyway, all the variation means that I'm not venturing any predictions on where Pennsylvania's rates will land based on what we've heard so far from other states. I'm waiting — which I'm not particularly good at — and watching the show, which is not half bad.

For example, the largest insurer in our neighbor Maryland wants premiums on the exchange to be an average of 25 percent higher than they are now. But the state's attorney general has different ideas and is urging regulators to cap increases at 5 percent.

In nearby D.C., the issue is different: Council voted unanimously to require small-business owners to purchase employee health insurance through a government-run marketplace.

• • •

There are three things you should know about the da Vinci robotic surgical system, in inverse order of importance.

1. It is awesomely named.

2. It is generally the exclusive domain of surgeons, but I recently filmed some civilians giving it a try. Watch closely and you'll see why it's good that they weren't actually operating on anyone. (Also, the practice setup kind of looks like a really boring video game.)

3. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is not a fan. And it's not alone.

• • •

Twenty months ago, 5,332 patients were using Lancaster General Health's online portal, MyLGHealth. Today the number is nearly 50,000 and, according to LGHealth, 20 percent of the registered users log in each week to access their medical record or communicate with their provider.

That's a big change, and fast, and I suspect hardly singular.

And that's all for this week.

Heather Stauffer covers Lancaster County, nonprofits and health care. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at You can also follow her on Twitter, @StaufferCPBJ.

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