Health Insurance Companies Are Now Looking At Your Genetic Information When You Apply For Healthcare Coverage.
Either directly or indirectly, genetics underlie perhaps the majority of the factors that affect insurability in individually issued health insurance. Advances in our understanding of these processes continue to provide innovative ways of treating diseases. These same advances can be used by insurers to further refine insurance pricing and risk classification. However, many individuals and organizations consider the use of certain genetic information by insurers socially unacceptable. New genetic information can be potentially of enormous benefit to underwriters and actuaries. Its use ultimately could alter underwriting processes in fundamental ways. At the same time, prohibitions on its use also could fundamentally alter underwriting processes. In other words, however the issue is resolved, underwriting in individually issued health insurance is likely to be changed in important ways. Because of this view, we examine here both the fundamentals of genetics and the issues associated with the current debate.
Several years ago, it became possible to analyze an individuals DNA (the molecule that contains all genetic information) and to identify specific genes in the DNA. A gene is the basic unit of heredity. Humans have some 100,000 genes that are grouped together into packets called chromosomes. We inherit 23 pairs of these chromosomes from each of our parents. The discovery of DNA has produced an explosion of research into the genetic structures fundamental to life and heredity. The most ambitious is the 20 year Human Genome Project, funded by the U.S. government and begun in 1984. This multibillion dollar project’s purpose is to identify the complete makeup of all 100,000 genes. Such a mapping of the human genome already has begun to allow an unprecedented understanding of diseases and the development of innovative means of treating them. The promise for the future is a far greater understanding, allowing for specific test or treatments for gene abnormalities that cause or influence disease. Science seems to be moving toward the belief that gene abnormalities cause all disease or they strongly influence the ability of the body to recover from disease or injury. Gene abnormalities can be broadly classified as inherited (from our parents) or acquired (resulting from mutations caused by aging or the environment) Thus, some diseases stem from inherited genes only, such as Huntington’s disease and Sickle Cell Anemia. Most diseases stem from a combination of inherited and acquired gene abnormalities. This class, which includes Coronary Artery Disease, Diabetes, Hypertension, a tendency to Obesity, and Cancer, are of particular interest to underwriters because they are associated with the more common mortality and morbidity risk and thus constitute a much higher cost to insure.
The public concern of genetics and underwriting for insurance purposes.
The possibility of testing for abnormal genes has raised fears about insurance and insurability. Insured’s who learn that they carry genes linked to medical conditions worry that their coverage may be canceled prematurely or their premiums raised. Potential applicants for insurance fear that they may be forced to take genetic test, receive unwanted information about their health status, and perhaps are denied access to coverage now and in the future. Individuals are also concerned about the privacy of genetic information and the implications such information may have for their families; after all, if one family member has the gene abnormality, others may have it also. Researchers worry that fears about use of genetic information will deter volunteers from participating in research projects
In regards to the insurance world, regarding the concern about creating genetic underwriting test, certainly the widespread use of such test results would cause some people who formerly could have procured insurance at standard rates to be rated substandard or even denied coverage altogether. This result, however, is no different that that which has applied with every scientific innovation found relevant to underwriting. More knowledge inevitably leads to more refined classification, and this is good on balance for a competitive market. The proportion of individuals who qualify for insurance at standard or preferred rates has hovered above 90 percent for many years. Also, negative test results could lead to even lower rates for many insured’s, as it has been for non smokers. Additionally, with greater knowledge about ones propensities, one can control disease progression or even onset, thus possibly allowing the person to become insurable. For example, if a genetic test reveals a genetic predisposition for Hemochromatosis (iron-rich blood) the individual might be able to secure early treatment, thereby qualifying for standard insurance.
So what does this mean to you? Relax, not all insurers are using this approach, however if you would like to apply with companies that do not use genetic underwriting during the application process for issues of privacy, feel free to visit our website at http://www.health-insurance-buyer.com for a free no hassle one on one quote and consultation, at the very least our agents can give you more information on this subject matter and tell you which companies to watch out for in case you have a history of cancer in your family.
About the author
Carlos Diez is a senior benefits consultant for http://www.health-insurance-buyer.com a referral service that refers consumers to the insurance carriers that can best fit their wants and needs. He holds life, health, and annuity licenses in 48 states and is appointed with over 88 carriers. For contact information please reach him at http://www.health-insurance-buyer.com