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  • Could my genetic makeup prevent me from buying life insurance?
  • March 1, 2011
  • “Insurers generally are not quick to embrace new technologies such as genetic testing,” said Whit Cornman, spokesperson for the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI). “Instead they tend to look at things that have a long proven track record.”

    “The run-of-the-mill approach to life insurance involves evaluating factors such as weight, height and a history of chronic disease, insurers are not necessarily looking at genetic information. Also, those factors are certainly less expensive to gather,” said Amanda Arnold, Health Policy and Legislative Analyst for the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health.
    health insurance genes

    Arnold adds that to date, the NHGR has not received any cases involving genetic discrimination, patient privacy and life insurance, but she understands why genetic testing might interest insurers.

    “I can imagine a scenario that it would be in their interest to gather such information when it comes to establishing premiums, but they have better ways to determine a person’s health and set rates,” said Arnold. “In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the issue. If problems emerge at some point in the future, then we would encourage the policy community to look at the implications of the practice and make additional recommendations as it becomes necessary.”

    Currently, 43 states have recognized the importance of maintaining the privacy of genetic information. But each state approaches the issue differently. GINA does not trump more expansive state laws.

    “State legislatures do so many things at the state level regarding insurance and there are some protections regarding genetic discrimination and patient privacy on the federal level but none apply specifically to life insurance,” said Arnold. “The state level could be where this topic bubbles up, especially if the states start parsing more laws regarding this issue.”

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