Can Genetic Testing Affect Life Insurance Rates? Shocking Details

The genetic testing industry is booming. With a quick DNA swab, you can learn about your family’s roots and your susceptibility to certain diseases. As tests get cheaper and easier, it may seem like there’s no reason not to uncover the secrets of your DNA – but there may be at least one. Genetic test results could impact your life insurance rates. You could even be denied coverage as a result. Here’s what you need to consider before you get a cheek swab.

Application Denied

A healthy 36-year-old woman would typically have no problem getting approved for a life insurance policy. However, one woman’s policy was denied. The rejection letter, which was published by Fast Company, explained that it was because she had the BRCA 1 gene, which meant she had a high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. 

The life insurance company had seen her genetic testing results, and it had used that information to deny her coverage. It just as easily could have used the information to approve her application but charge her a higher rate.

Legal Protections for Genetic Information

Some people are surprised to learn that insurers can do this because they thought genetic information was legally protected. This is both true and false.

You may have heard of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA, which guarantees some legal protections regarding genetic information. Because of GINA, employers cannot use genetic information when hiring, firing, promoting, negotiating pay, assigning jobs or making other employment decisions. In other words, if you get a genetic test, your employer can’t fire you because of it. Your employer can’t require you to provide genetic information, either.

GINA also prevents health insurance companies from discriminating against enrollees based on genetic information. This means that health insurers cannot deny you coverage or charge you higher rates because of a genetic test you took.

But here’s the catch – this protection only applies to health insurers. Other types of insurance carriers, including life insurance, are not barred from using genetic information in their underwriting. In other words, they are free to deny coverage or charge higher rates because a genetic test showed you have a high risk for a disease. The same goes for disability insurance and long-term care insurance.

Some states have additional protections for genetic information. Arizona, Maryland, Montana and New Jersey all have laws that prohibit genetic discrimination among life insurers, at least in some situations. If you live in one of these states, life insurers may not be able to use genetic information against you. However, if you live in anywhere else, it’s a distinct possibility.

Should You Get Tested?

Despite these concerns, genetic testing can be valuable. If you learn that you are at risk for a disease, you may be able to take steps to improve your health and prevent or delay health problems. However, the insurance issue is worth considering, especially if you’re thinking about buying a plan in the future.

If you’ve already been tested, and if the tests revealed that you have a high risk for health problems, don’t assume you can’t get affordable coverage. You may just need to shop around a little more.

Need protection? Request a life insurance quote.

Sources
  • https://www.genome.gov/about-genomics/policy-issues/Genetic-Discrimination

  • https://www.aclu.org/other/summary-laws-regarding-genetic-discrimination

  • https://www.fastcompany.com/3055710/if-you-want-life-insurance-think-twice-before-getting-genetic-testing

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