Ban use of genetic testing for life insurance: RACGP

Jolyon Attwooll

7/02/2024 4:38:21 PM

While the college notes its potential to improve health outcomes, it suggests people could avoid testing if they risk cover being denied.

Blood tests
A moratorium on the use of genetic testing for life insurance underwriting was put in place in 2019.

The Federal Government should legislate a ban on the use of adverse genetic testing results by life insurers, according to the RACGP.
In a submission in response to a Federal Treasury consultation paper, RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins notes the capacity of genetic testing to help medical professionals.
‘[It] offers great potential in improving health outcomes,’ the submission states.
‘It enables the diagnosis of genetic conditions and can help identify and manage risk for conditions such as familial breast cancer.
‘However, these gains are at risk if people avoid testing because it may lead to them being denied personal insurance cover.
‘In order not to undermine the advances and to build public trust in genomics medicine, consumer protection against genetic discrimination is crucial.’
According to the college, the Government should pursue the option to bring in laws that would totally or partially ban life insurers from using adverse results of genetic testing in their underwriting.
a total ban would align with the Canadian approach to the use of genetic test results by life insurers, the consultation paper suggests.
The RACGP notes the Canadian Government’s inclusion of an exception, which allows people to voluntarily disclose a test result showing they do not have a genetic change that runs in the family – an approach it suggests the Australian Government could consider.
A partial ban, meanwhile, would allow certain exemptions.
‘This approach would broadly align with the United Kingdom approach, whereby insurers cannot use predictive genetic test results, except for those for Huntington’s disease, and only then in certain applications,’ authors of the Treasury consultation paper state.
The other options include proceeding with no Government intervention, or legislating a financial limit below which insurers could not request or use adverse genetic testing results.
The RACGP also stated it supports the Australian Human Rights Commission to take responsibility for the education and enforcement required by any new legal obligations.
A moratorium on the use of genetic testing in life insurance was brought into place in July 2019 by the Financial Services Council.
It stipulated that life insurers could only request or use genetic test results if the total cover was for more than $500,000 lump sum death or permanent disability cover, $200,000 critical illness cover or $4000 a month for income protection, salary continuance or business expenses cover.
The Treasury consultation closed at the end of January.
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