Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Useless Rhetorical Rumination: The conundrum of 'Pre-existing'

When discussing the Affordable Care Act proponents tout how one can no longer be denied coverage by insurance companies for "pre-existing" conditions. While we have all accepted that through its repetition I still find it a fascinating construction.

Existence is a binary condition; either something exists or it doesn't. To "pre-exist" suggests there is a third state of existing before existence, which from a rhetorical standpoint seems impossible. Clearly something only exists when it exists, not before the initiation of that state, but when we hear "pre-existing" bandied about in this manner we don't pause and consider its inherent contradiction.

Undoubtedly the term was concocted by lawyers who needed to connote a condition that had been identified prior to one attempting to acquire coverage, but the prefix must be superfluous if the condition is still actively in existence. If one wishes to indicate a condition that had previously existed but then ceased then "existing" is the wrong tense; it would, at best, be "pre-existed" in that context (if one insists on a single term construction.

Conceivably saying that people can no longer be denied due to "existing" conditions achieves the goal, and "pre-identified" would better indicate the status, but that "pre-existing" came into usage surely suggests an attorney parsed "existing" to mean something other than a precise reading of being in existence or not, where prefacing that word with "previously" was somehow legally inadequate.

Maybe that's not how it came to be at all.

All I can say with any certainty: This sort of vaguely linguistic rumination is not a condition for which there is any treatment, much less get coverage by any insurance.

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