With all the controversy surrounding Obamacare, the repeal of Obamacare and the prospect of an overhauled system altogether, I am hearing that phrase that always made me chuckle: Pre-existing conditions. Of course, I take this subject seriously, but the phrase that is used seems inappropriate for its intended meaning. Maybe that term has been around for a long time and is standard in the healthcare industry, but I first heard it when President Obama began his quest for health care reform.
We all know what its intended meaning is related to healthcare: a condition that exists prior to coverage. Shouldn’t it be called pre-coverage conditions? Or pre-insured conditions? Why pre-existing conditions? Let’s dissect the phrase. Pre means before. Existing means current. Condition refers to the state of something. So another way of saying pre-existing condition could be a condition before it exists. In the case of the condition being an illness, wouldn’t the pre-existing state be a state of wellness?
When healthcare was being reformed with the notion of insurance companies being required to insure those with “pre-existing conditions”, I would have expected their first reaction to being very positive. They insure healthy people all the time. What surprises me is that the attorneys didn’t jump all over this terminology.
I am reminded of a conference call I had with a bunch of attorneys related to a company purchase agreement. At the end of the conversation, one attorney asked if this all looks good. As a joke, I responded by saying that I thought a particular word should be capitalized. They all went silent, and one of them asked if I was serious. Then my attorney said that just by capitalizing a word, it changes the meaning or context of the term entirely, I did not know that (due to my lack of legal education, I’m sure). I learned at that point that A) I probably should just shut up when lawyers are working out contractual details, and B) you really have to have your meanings taken literally when it comes to contracts. This is why I am very surprised by a phrase that is used by presidents, insurance companies and everyone related (no doubt very educated people) has never been changed to a more appropriate term or at least required to change by their attorneys.
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