Genetic Testing and Life Insurance

Genetics Testing - What effect does genetic testing have on your ability to purchase life insurance?

New legislation passed recently has put into effect law prohibiting discrimination due to genetic test results for health insurance and employment.

On May 21, 2008, President George W. Bush signed into law the Anti-Discrimination Bill prohibiting use of genetic testing results from be used to discriminate against people for the purposes of employment, losing their jobs, or health insurance when genetic testing reveals they are susceptible to costly diseases. This new law is considered the first Civil Rights legislation of the new millennium

The purpose of this legislation is to ensure genetic (DNA) testing will not be used against people. This new law prohibits insurance carriers and employers from denying health insurance, promotions, or employment to people when genetic testing results show these people to have a predisposition to heart disease, cancer, or other health ailments.

This new law prohibits health insurance companies from using DNA test results for the purposes of enrollment eligibility, or setting health insurance premiums.

The new law does not however address life insurance, and how DNA results may be used to discriminate in the approval of people for life insurance coverage.

This measure doesn’t prevent genetic discrimination against people when they are applying for life insurance, disability, or long term care insurance.

That means there are still some very important gaps in protection, and reasons why people may want to keep their genetic information out of their medical records. You may want to think twice before taking part in genetic testing.


What is Genetic Testing?

Genetics testing is performed by researchers to determine who may have specific genetics leading to certain types of health problems.


How Will Genetic Testing Effect Life Insurance?

If results from genetics testing are made available to insurance companies, these results could be used in determining someone’s acceptability for insurance. If used for this purpose, the genetic testing results would provide a form of discrimination against those people who took part in helping researchers with genetic testing in order to develop cured for genetic deficiencies.


Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)

GINA is the first and only federal legislation that will provide protections against discrimination based on an individual's genetic information in health insurance coverage and employment settings.

The health insurance protections offered by GINA are expected to roll out within 12 months after the bill is signed. The protections offered to employment protections will be in effect within 18 months.

Now that GINA has been approved and signed into federal law by the President, American health care consumers and employees will no longer have to fear the adverse effects of being tested to determine their risk status for genetic diseases.

Read the full press release on GINA, the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act.


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Here are some additional resources that you may find useful:

The American Society of Human Genetics

The Coalition for Genetic Fairness - An alliance of advocacy organizations, health professionals, and industry leaders working to educate Congressional policymakers about the importance of legal protections for genetic information and ensure passage of meaningful genetic information nondiscrimination legislation.


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