Pre-existing condition (according to insurance companies, from Investopedia):
“any medical condition that existed prior to the date the patient signed up with a health insurance provider. Under the ‘objective standard’ definition, a pre-existing condition is any condition for which the patient has already received medical advice or treatment prior to enrollment in a new medical insurance plan.
“Under the broader, ‘prudent person’ definition, a pre-existing condition is anything for which symptoms were present and a prudent person would have sought treatment…Pre-existing conditions can include serious illnesses, such as cancer, less serious conditions, such as a broken leg, and even prescription drugs. Notably, pregnancy is a pre-existing condition that will be treated regardless of prior treatment.”
Pre-existing condition (according to me, from me):
a term created to categorize people with health conditions like mine as a bad business bet, and allow or deny them coverage based on those conditions.
I’m not going to touch that broken leg/pregnancy nonsense, nor the whole healthcare-as-business stuff. But let’s revisit that video of our favorite voice of reason in the defining arena, Mr. Ralph Hudgens, the Commissioner of Insurance for Georgia.
He sure brings that analogy home, doesn’t he? And listen to the laughter from his audience! It screams: invincible. Inexaustible. INSURED. To sum up, if you’ve no desire to watch this paragon of health and sensibility break down the basics of pre-existing conditions for the good folks of the CSRA Republican Women’s Club, it goes like this. My wish to be covered for my pre-existing condition is like me wrecking a car, saying, “Oops!” and then expecting auto insurance to pay for my bad driving. Simple.
Except that it’s not simple. You can choose a car, choose whether or not to drive, choose whether or not to drive safely. But you get no choice in the main factor behind many pre-existing conditions: genes. Prudence and forethought aren’t options when you’re in the embryonic stage. You might not even know what kind of diseases your genes predispose you to until the day you find blood in the toilet, or a lump in a breast, or tumors in your lungs. You can try to blame your entire family tree if it makes you feel better, but it won’t cure your disease.*
Which brings me to that inconvenient medical fact that screws up Ralph Hudgens’ hilarious car analogy. I did absolutely nothing to “get” ulcerative colitis. Like cancer (though slightly less debilitating and more controllable in the short run, depending on disease severity), you don’t get ulcerative colitis by wishing for it**, nor by doing any of the following dangerous activities:
1) Hanging around the welfare office, leeching off the good hardworking people of America
2) Smoking cigarettes (not even the marijuana kind!)
3) Eating crappy fast food, or healthy organic food
4) Eating anything edible, really
5) Having pre-marital heterosexual or homosexual sex
6) Drinking alcohol
7) Worshipping a non-Christian diety, or being an atheist
8) Voting for Barack Obama or any other Democrat
9) Using birth control, or not
10) Playing violent video games
Unfortunately you can’t wish it away, either. Ulcerative colitis won’t go away even if you obey your parents, eat right, and praise the Lord. You might be able to quiet it some by eating a diet tailored to your specific needs, or by taking a daily handful of pills. But it doesn’t go away. This disease is only completely curable by surgery. SURGERY. By removing a malfunctioning but generally necessary organ from the human body.
Curability aside, my meds for controlling my disease are expensive. Specialist visits are expensive. Flare-ups are exhausting, and explosively unappealing. I’ve paid high premiums, used high-priced COBRA coverage for uninsured intervals, and made a hard effort to stay employed and insured. Hey, I even manage to enjoy myself. I’ve been able to do all those things because, for the most part, I’ve been lucky.
Clearly Ralph Hudgens has also been lucky, luckier than most. He’s healthy and insured, and if he has any pre-existing conditions, he can afford them. But we daren’t call it luck. In a magical world where people can steer the trajectory of genetic conditions, we must conclude Hudgens’ health is likewise due to factors under his control: his hard work, the blessings of whatever deity he worships, and his masterful omnipotence over his genetic wading pool.
To end this entry on an upbeat note:
*Okay, you say, but what about environment? It’s been known to play a role in many chronic diseases. To which I say, sure. Environment can influence genes. But you have no way to predict exactly how the mix of environment and genes will work for YOU. Sure, there are studies relating weight and exercise habits to increased rates of certain cancers, but people who work out and eat well still get cancer (C.f. my mother and breast cancer.) Also, when are your formative years, both physically and mentally? When you’re young. And how many kids can exercise complete control over their environment? Hell, how many parents have complete control and knowledge over what benefits and harms are present in their children’s lives?