Australia's Financial Services Council (FSC) – a professional body of which all companies offering life insurance are members – announced the moratorium which came into effect on 1 July.
'We know the community benefits from genomic research and the moratorium is key to giving Australians the reassurance they need and the flexibility to evolve as the science does,' said Sally Loane, CEO of the FSC. 'Genomic research has already led to better treatments for a number of illnesses, such as breast cancer, and has led to new ways for people to understand and better manage their health risks.'
Evidence was presented to a parliamentary inquiry in 2017 that Australians were declining genetic tests recommended by their doctors over fears that they would be denied life cover or have to pay much higher premiums (see BioNews 915). Researchers have also experienced difficulty in recruiting subjects for genomic research as some are put off for the same reasons according to The Age.
The moratorium will allow Australians to buy up to AU$500,000 of life cover without having to disclose any genetic test results, although they will still have the option to submit favourable test results.
The moratorium will last until at least June 2024, but a review will take place in 2022 with the aim of extending the moratorium, taking into account developments in the field and how effective the scheme has been as promoting genetic inclusivity.
Although not written into Australian law, the moratorium will be included in the Life Insurance Code of Practice, and as such the independent Life Code Compliance Committee will be able to sanction members who are not compliant.
'The FSC believes it is vital to have an agile solution like a moratorium which, unlike legislation, can easily adapt and change as new breakthroughs are discovered,' said Loane.