Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


The Fertility Show


 

Australian insurance inquiry to consider genetic discrimination

29 August 2017

By Rachel Siden

Appeared in BioNews 915

A parliamentary inquiry in Australia is examining the impact of life insurance discrimination based on genetic test results.

Under current law, genetic testing could result in increased life insurance premiums or exclusion from life insurance coverage altogether. This differs from rules governing health insurance which protect patients from such discrimination.

'There is a concerning lack of regulation over the use of genetic information by the Australian life insurance industry,' write Public Health Genomics scholars Jane Tiller and Dr Paul Lacaze of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia in The Conversation. 'Insurance companies are allowed to use genetic test results to discriminate against applicants for life, permanent disability, and income protection insurance (which all come under the life-insurance product category), with little independent oversight or consumer transparency.'

Whether a genetic test is obtained clinically or from a private company (also known as 'direct-to-consumer' genetic testing), life insurance applicants are obligated to disclose their genetic test results if their insurer requests it. And if the test results contain information that shows a patient possesses a genetic disease or a gene that puts them at higher risk of certain diseases, patients risk losing coverage even if they take preventive health measures.

The fear of losing coverage, according to Tiller and Dr Lacaze, is causing more Australian patients to turn down genetic testing, even in clinical settings where results could be used to treat or prevent disease.

A 2009 study conducted by 13 Australian-based researchers showed that twice as many patients with family history of bowel cancer declined genetic testing after being advised of the potential effect on their life insurance coverage, compared to the number who refused testing without being advised of the insurance risk.

Dr Louise Keogh of the University of Melbourne, lead author of the study, told the Sydney Morning Herald: 'It does put people off from getting genetic testing. It's not everybody, but there is a sub-group for whom it is a deal-breaker and they are not interested in getting genetic testing while they know that it will impact their life insurance.'

In Australia, the life insurance industry is largely self-regulated. By contrast, many other countries heavily restrict or prohibit the ability of insurance companies to discriminate based on genetic test results.

According to Tiller and Dr Lacaze, as genetic testing becomes more widespread, Australians will need greater consumer protection: 'The Australian government must take action towards an immediate ban (moratorium) on the use of genetic test results in insurance, until adequate long-term regulation is in place.'

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

13 March 2017 - by Rebecca Carr 
A bill outlawing genetic discrimination has been passed by Canada's House of Commons, adding genetic characteristics as a protected ground under their Human Rights Act...
13 March 2017 - by Jennifer Willows 
A bill currently passing through the US House of Representatives may mean that employees will have to share their genetic information with their employers...
08 February 2016 - by Ryan Ross 
The parents of a child carrying genetic markers for cystic fibrosis are suing a school for alleged discrimination and unlawful disclosure of personal information...
14 July 2014 - by Rebecca Carr 
Canada's Office of the Privacy Commissioner has issued a statement urging the life and health insurance industry to refrain from asking applicants for access to existing genetic test results...
23 March 2009 - by MacKenna Roberts 
Researchers at the University of Tasmania, Australia, have conducted the world's first study to have verified incidents of genetic discrimination and warn that such incidents are likely to increase without better safeguards. The five-year study surveyed 1,000 individuals who have had genetic testing during the past ten...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Moving the Boundaries of Human Reproduction

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Jacques Cohen

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Andy Greenfield

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation