Battle Over Health Care in America

Introduction

Or is it “health care”? Or “health-care”? The battle over how to properly use the term “healthcare” has trudged on in America for many years. I have been involved in educating healthcare professionals and students here in New York City and on Long Island for over 27 years. For that entire time I have watched the phrase “healthcare” being grammatically abused by all – even by the largest book publishing companies, dictionary publishers, newspaper and magazine publishers, medical institutions, and government agencies in America.

Who Is To Blame For The Confusion?

But these very same publishers and institutions are to blame for the prolonged confusion. Some of them mandate the using of “healthcare” as one word for all grammatical situations. And some of them still insist on using “healthcare”, as well as “health care”, depending on the specific topic being discussed. To make matters much worse, some publications will even switch around the term and the way that it is used – all within the same publication. Here at our company we have consciously chosen to use “healthcare” as one word, but we certainly understand both sides of the argument. New compound words always seem awkward to use for a while. But eventually, we all accept and conform to the change. Most of us in America have already accepted the change to using “healthcare” as one word. Now it is time for the last few holdouts to accept this change and start using “healthcare” as one word.

Why We Use Healthcare

Why, then, does my medical training and publishing company embrace “healthcare” as one word? Well, “health care” may have technically been two words when the term first came about, but in all rational practicality it was one word. The distinction was a fine one – and way too subtle, obviously, to keep up. Before long, writers and editors alike started dropping that confusing extra space, transforming what had become a purely semantic nuance into no nuance at all. At my company, we have a core belief that we have an obligation to our students and readers to make everything that we teach and publish to be as easy to read and understand as possible. If this means using one word versus two, or using an unpopular or grammatically incorrect hyphen in a word, or splitting an infinitive, or using extra commas, then we will do it. Our first and foremost duty is to our students and readers, not the grammar editors or linguists.

Evolution And Improvement Of Our Language

But can we blame our language for simplifying and evolving? It’s equally possible that American society, in its infinite semantic wisdom, decided not to split hairs – or word phrases – where it is pointless to do so. This isn’t just the inescapable evolution of our language. It actually is a sensible change to make.

“Healthcare” and “Health Care” Defined

We will frequently see the word or phrase “healthcare” and “health care” but are unsure whether they are the same. Many people use each one to mean the same thing – but they were fundamentally different at first. At its most elemental definition, “health care” was a service offered by trained professionals to patients. As one word, “healthcare” meant the system in which the professionals work and where patients receive care. Healthcare as one word referred to a system to deliver health care (two words). Thus, America has a “healthcare system”. In Great Britain, it’s called the National Health Service.

We can easily see why these definitions can get confusing and become commingled. But now, most of us accept that the term “healthcare” is now a generic way of referring to any aspect of medical care – no matter what the topic being discussed. Whether it is a discussion of the diagnosis or treatment of diseases, or how that diagnosis or treatment is delivered, or how they are paid for, is now “healthcare” – one word.