November 12, 2014

Should Life Insurers Have Access to Genetic Test Results?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Masters of Bioethics Program, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center and New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York
  • 3Departments of Pediatrics and Medicine, Columbia University, New York, New York

Copyright 2014 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA. 2014;312(18):1855-1856. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.13301

Should life insurance companies have access to consumers’ genetic information? In deciding whether to sell life insurance policies and at what price, insurers routinely consider applicants’ risk factors, such as smoking and obesity. Should genetic information be excluded? The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) bars use of genetic information for health insurance underwriting decisions, but not for life, long-term care, or disability insurance. These questions have received occasional attention in the past but have become more salient with the rapidly decreasing cost and increasing use of predictive genetic testing. Individuals at risk for serious genetic diseases may fear loss of insurance coverage or higher rates and thus decline genetic testing that could improve disease prevention, early diagnosis, or treatment.

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