There have recently been some big headlines about people who were denied life insurance coverage because of their genetic testing results. This leads to a lot of questions about discrimination in genetic testing and life insurance.
This is because some (but not all) life insurance companies are specifically asking people whether they have been genetically tested.
What can happen if they access this information?
The unfortunate answer is that if the life insurance company discovers that some of your genetic markers are positive for one or more diseases, they can use that information to charge higher premiums or decline you for coverage altogether.
The L.A. Times reported in a recent article that as many as 700,000 Americans have done a full genome scan.
Many companies offering health, long term care, disability, life insurance, and some employer groups are lobbying to have this information mandatory and available for their use.
They claim that this will allow them to better pool their resources, raise or lower premiums and act more efficiently.
Yet many privacy advocates say this access could be the opening of a Pandora’s Box. They worry that companies will automatically discriminate against people just because of their genetics. Something they cannot control.
What This Might Mean for You
Let’s consider a possible scenario regarding genetic testing and life insurance applicants.
If you are a superbly healthy 25-year-old man or woman who applies for life insurance without genetic testing, you might qualify for a “Preferred Best – Non Smoking” or “Preferred – Non Smoking” rates. These 2 ratings offer the lowest life insurance rates possible.
Let’s say this same person has had a genetic test and has one or more genetic markers that show a predisposition to a life-threatening disease. They might have 4x the rates they would have without the test. Alternatively, an insurance company might decline him or her altogether.
You might be wondering why there are no laws that protect your privacy and what you can do about it.
Let’s cover all the basics and answer all the questions you might have about how genetic testing affects life insurance.
What is Genetic Testing?
The human genome project was completed in April 2003. Scientists then began unraveling what this genetic coding could mean for an individual’s genetic make-up.
More than 1,800 diseases are now identifiable through genetic markers. There are now over 2,000 genetic tests for particular human conditions. There are also a variety of different types of genetic tests.
Individuals can now request a full genome scan of their own genetic make-up for around $1,000 dollars.
Genetic testing is simply a medical test that identifies changes in your chromosomes, genes or proteins. The results can tell you whether you have a predisposition to one or more certain diseases. The results can also tell you the likelihood of passing these genetic traits on to your children.
Keep in mind it isn’t perfect yet.
The science is still far from absolute. These tests cannot tell you everything about what an inherited disease could mean for your future health. Having a positive test result does not necessarily mean you will actually contract the disease. And, if do you contract the disease, the test can not tell you when it will develop or its severity.
Discuss your genetic test results with either a geneticist or geneticist counselor. A positive test result could have both financial and psychological ramifications for you and your family.
Types of Genetic Testing Available
The American National Institute of Health reveals that there are 3 types of genetic tests which are in use and include:
- Molecular Genetic Tests – These are gene tests that look at single genes or short DNA lengths. They identify a mutation or variation for a specific genetic disorder.
- Chromosomal Genetic Tests – This test looks at whole chromosomes or longer DNA lengths to look for larger genetic changes.
- Biochemical Genetic Tests – These tests examine the amount or protein level activity which can be indicative of a possible genetic disorder.
Primary Uses for Genetic Testing
There are varieties of ways in which the above genetic tests are currently in use for the following medical applications including:
- Newborn Screening – This screening is in use to test newborn babies to identify potential genetic disorders that may be treated earlier. This practice is now fairly common in America.
- Diagnostic Testing – This form of testing can be performed anywhere from before birth or during a person’s lifetime. It is a procedure most commonly in use as a diagnostic tool to ascertain or rule out a positive result due to a person’s current physical symptoms.
- Carrier Testing – A test procedure in use for those who might carry a particular copy of a gene mutation. These genes might exist as 2 copies and may result in a particular genetic disorder. For example, 2 parents who each have a particular gene disorder are more likely to pass this disorder onto a child.
- Prenatal Testing – A test which in use to detect any changes in the genes of a fetus before the child is born.
- Preimplantation Test – Generally in use to reduce the risk of a child with a particular genetic disorder. Used to test embryos during reproductive techniques like in-vitro fertilization.
- Predictive Testing – A test that can identify a predisposition or risk to a physical disorder. This might include a particular type of cancer before symptoms or the disease appears.
More and more of these tests are being made available. The costs for these tests may be currently cost-prohibitive for many American families. But, as we well know, as more genetic testing companies develop more products, these costs will decrease.
As they become more available, the results of these tests can more widely impact an individual when it comes to genetic testing and life insurance.
Are There No Laws Protecting My Right to Privacy?
Yes, there is a Federal law in place which offers some protection for your privacy. However, this law has not evolved to the point where it includes life insurance companies.
This law was enacted in 2008 as an Act of the American Congress. It is known as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act or (GINA). The intent of the law is to protect people from genetic discrimination.
However, this law is very limited in scope. The government officials did not foresee how genetic testing might affect life insurance.
The current design of this law will only protect people from genetic discrimination in 2 specific instances:
- Health Insurance
It does not apply to the following:
- Life Insurance
- Disability Insurance
- Long Term Care Insurance
Genetic Testing and Life Insurance Questions
Here are the answers to some of the most common questions people ask us about when it comes to genetic testing and life insurance.
Do I have to tell a life insurance company about a genetic test?
The answer is yes. If you have taken a genetic test and are asked about it, you will have to admit you have done so.
Failure to do so could result in the insurer voiding your policy if they find out you lied about genetic testing. The other alternative is they can decline your application altogether. Consequently, they will be able to request these genetic test results to review them and rate you accordingly.
Currently, most life insurers are not asking people outright if they have taken a genetic test. This will probably change. The question may become standard if there are no changes made to the GINA law in the future.
What happens if a life insurance company doesn’t ask about genetic testing?
If the life insurer does not ask whether you have taken a genetic test, then you don’t have to tell them.
However, life insurers will still likely have access to the results of a genetic test. We will explain how they can do so later on in the article.
A life insurer will always ask you about your family’s medical history. Currently, this is the primary manner in how they learn whether you might have a genetic predisposition to having certain diseases.
Can a life insurance company tell me to take a genetic test?
In theory, the answer would be yes. However, because of the current expense of the test, we don’t know of any insurance company that does. This does not mean it will not happen down the road should the cost for genetic testing substantially decrease.
Keep in mind there are new advances in technology occurring daily. With more biotech companies offering increasing availability of genetic testing products, it may become a more common practice for a life insurance company to request you take a genetic test.
How do life insurance companies learn about my genetic test results?
The first approach is that an insurer will ask you a variety of questions on your application. Life insurers perform their due diligence in learning as much about you as they can before they rate you. They have access to a variety of sources to learn more about you including:
- Medical Exam – Here, a medical examiner will test your blood pressure as well as take a urine and blood sample
- Medical Information Bureau – Through a process of encrypted codes, any medical procedures, tests, examinations, and hospitalization will be kept on their database for a period of 7 years
- Medical Records – The life insurer can request any and all results of medical reports from doctors and hospitals
- Prescription Data Base – The Rx database will record any and all prescriptions you are being prescribed or have been prescribed
- Credit Report
- Driving Record
Most medical records, and this now largely includes genetic testing, are now maintained on Electronic Health Records or (EHRs). Most insurers will make a “blanket” request for all EHRs which will most likely include genetic testing.
How do I avoid penalization for genetic testing by a life insurance company?
If have already taken a genetic test and are about to apply for life insurance, talk to an independent agent. They should know which companies have a question asking about genetic testing on their application.
An independent agent can ask you about your family history and the results of your genetic test to provide the best strategy in finding low-cost insurance for your particular needs. At Abrams Insurance Solutions, we specialize in helping people with pre-existing conditions.
Since each company underwrites a person differently, you should know that some insurers are more conservative in their underwriting guidelines. Other insurers are more lenient for certain medical conditions.
Abrams Insurance Solutions is an independent life agency. This means we work for you and not the life insurance company. We can comparison shop with the most lenient insurers in the industry to find you the best coverage at the lowest rates.
What if I don’t have life insurance yet and want to get a genetic test?
Now, if you want to get a genetic test and are looking for life insurance, you have 2 choices:
1. Postpone your Genetic Test and Apply for Life Insurance Now
We would suggest that you apply for life insurance first and have the genetic testing done later. This way the underwriters will rate your current health. You will not be penalized for a potential decline in your future health. However, we would add that your family history may play a role in how you are rated.
2. Opt for No-Medical Exam Life Insurance
The cost of no medical exam life insurance has significantly declined over the past few years. There is one company where the premiums are very comparable for what you would pay for a similar term policy with a medical exam. Most of these policies only ask a few general health questions and do not require a medical exam.
How Abrams Insurance Solutions Can Help Find Affordable Life Insurance with Genetic Testing
At Abrams Insurance Solutions, we know that underwriting guidelines are changing all the time. We make it our job to keep track of these changes. That way we can help you find the best fit for your unique situation.
Genetic testing does not have to increase your life insurance. Our independent agents have access to over 70 of the best-rated life insurance companies. With all these options, we guarantee we can find a good fit for your family.
The reason is that we know what questions to ask. We can answer all your concerns. Our independent life insurance agents can provide you with an appropriate as well as affordable life insurance solution.
Life insurance is evolving all the time and this will apply to genetic testing and life insurance. It’s through this approach that we are able to save our clients both time and money when it comes to showing you how to find affordable life insurance with a genetic test.
We work closely with the underwriters at all of the companies we work with. This gives us an edge over our competitors to find you the best health classification with medical conditions uncovered through a genetic test.
We won’t stop shopping the market for you until we find you the best policy and the lowest rates.
Do you have any questions about life insurance about genetic testing and life insurance that we didn’t answer? Give us a call at 858-703-6178 and we will find you the information right away. You can find more information about life insurance with pre-existing conditions here.
Or, if you are looking for quotes, use the Instant Quotes tool on this page. There is no obligation to buy. Ever.