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Genetic tests could reduce premiums, says insurer

30 March 2009
Appeared in BioNews 501

Customers who undergo genetic testing to discover their risk of developing certain diseases may be offered lower premiums regardless of whether they disclose the results, a leading UK insurance company has said. The company believes that individuals who discover they are at increased risk of a disease will be more likely to adopt a healthier lifestyle and enrol on routine screening programmes.

Concerns that genetic testing might lead to some people being unable to get affordable life insurance has led to a UK moratorium preventing insurance companies from requesting or using genetic information when setting premiums. It is currently up to the Genetics and Insurance Committee (GAIC), a non-statutory advisory body, to decide which genetic test results insurers can request, however at present the only approved test is for Huntington's disease in patients requesting life insurance in excess of £500,000 or health cover above £300,000.

Speaking to the Times, Gil Baldwin, Managing Director of Norwich Union Healthcare, said that knowing the results of genetic tests wouldn't be necessary. 'The thing about genetic screening is I'm not interested in knowing what your results are. I'm interested that you are interested in going for a screen, because only a madman would get information saying you're at risk of a heart attack and do nothing with that information', he said.

Companies such as 23andMe and deCODEme offer genetic testing services screening variants linked to a wide range of diseases for between £300 and £700. With DNA sequencing technology advancing at pace, it is likely that such services will become increasingly reliable, affordable and, consequently, widespread, reinforcing the need for regulation to prevent genetic discrimination.

It is not yet clear what will happen when the moratorium expires in 2014. There is concern that if the moratorium is not extended or replaced by legislation, people may be discouraged from taking predictive tests which might otherwise flag up the need for routine screening or preventative surgery. Some campaigners have called for legislation equivalent to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), signed into US law last year.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
A sign that DNA revolution is in the air
The Times |  27 March 2009
Customers who take DNA tests could get cheaper health insurance...
The Mail on Sunday |  28 March 2009
DNA scan 'could cut cost of insurance - even if results kept secret
The Times |  27 March 2009
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