I'm working under contract for an insurance company, can't divulge much more due to NDAs. On one form they state they will cover a service if it is "medically necessary" but not if it is "non-medically necessary." I think it's clear that it's the necessity they're talking about, but the phrase "non-medically necessary" sounds to me as if it's necessary, just not medically. Wouldn't "medically non-necessary" be better English?

  • Surely "covered only if the service is medically necessary" removes all ambiguity by stating the only condition which applies. If you try and cover everything, either you use inappropriate exclusions, or miss one. Both create ambiguity. [And this doesn't actually answer the question about the position of non-, hence the comment.]
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 8, 2015 at 21:17
  • There is really no "perfect" way to do this sort of construction. While the document is question might be better worded, it's sufficiently unambiguous as is. (But I'd tend to say something like "not a medical necessity" or "not medically necessary".) (Remember, the lawyers get final say, and their English is atrocious.)
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 8, 2015 at 21:53
  • @Hot Licks Isn't that libellous? Nov 8, 2015 at 22:10
  • @EdwinAshworth Not in the US, where truth is an absolute defense against libel.
    – deadrat
    Nov 8, 2015 at 22:23

1 Answer 1


I think 'medically un-necessary' would be better than 'medically non-necessary', which sounds weird to my ear. Or as Hot Licks pointed out 'not medically necessary'.

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