Life Insurers Support Ban on Industry Use of Genetic Test Results


The Council of Australian Life Insurers says it supports a ban on the use of genetic test results in insurance underwriting “…to help empower Australians to better manage their health.”

CALI CEO Christine Cupitt says in a statement that with genetic testing becoming more prevalent in the community “…now is the time for Federal Government regulation to ensure that no Australian is deterred from taking a genetic test to proactively manage their health.”

Christine Cupitt

She says CALI’s 19 members recognise that genetic testing can play an important role in giving people peace of mind and empowering them to reduce potential health risks (see: Genetic Test Consultation Launched).

“It has never been the intention of the life insurance industry to deter people from taking genetic tests that give them more information about their overall health.”

…Australia’s life insurers have never, and would never, require someone to take a genetic test for the purposes of underwriting…

She says that Australia’s life insurers “…have never, and would never, require someone to take a genetic test for the purposes of underwriting.”

As outlined in CALI’s submission to the Treasury inquiry, the life insurance industry supports strict regulation on the use of genetic test results in underwriting “…with limited Government approved exclusions to guarantee fairness for all insured Australians.”

“We want to deliver the protection and certainty millions of Australians need … Declining to offer cover is rare and only ever a last resort.”

In its full submission, in order to guarantee fairness for all insured Australians, CALI says it supports strict regulation on life insurers using genetic tests in underwriting and lays out what the limited exclusions approved by the Government should include:

  • A flexible approach that provides certainty to people, is reviewed on a regular basis and, if necessary, revised over time to take into account advances in genetic and genomic science and evidence of the impact on the life insurance market and premiums
  • A prohibition on life insurers using predictive genetic tests in life insurance underwriting unless permitted by Government regulation, which would include only allowing permitted tests to be used above prescribed financial limits (similar to the United Kingdom Code on Genetic Testing and Life Insurance). We propose that the Federal Government provide criteria to assess whether a new or specific predictive genetic test should be permitted under the regulations
  • Maintaining the principle that insurers can ask people to disclose, and use as part of the underwriting process, any diagnosis of a condition, even if the diagnosis resulted directly or indirectly from a genetic test (i.e. treats diagnostic genetic tests the same way as other diagnostic medical tests such as a blood test or an ECG, which are already ordinarily disclosable for the purposes of underwriting)
  • Allowing a person to voluntarily disclose a genetic test, and permitting an insurer to take it into account if it is to that person’s benefit
  • Enforcement by ASIC as the key conduct regulator for the life insurance industry, with the Australian Human Rights Commission continuing to be responsible for ensuring and enforcing compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA)

Background on the use of genetic testing by life insurers

The CALI statement says that Australia’s life insurers “…consistently and carefully consider how they can best meet the evolving expectations of the people they serve. The Life Insurance Code of Practice clearly states that regardless of the amount of cover, life insurers will not ask or encourage people to take a genetic test.”

It says the Life Code sets standards higher than the law to expand Australians’ access to the life insurance protection that suits them.

“Once a person has obtained life insurance, any future genetic tests do not need to be disclosed to their insurer and will not affect their level of cover or premiums.”

It notes that around 15 million people are protected by life insurance in Australia. The majority obtained their cover without ever having to disclose the results of a genetic test.

“Australians can currently access affordable life insurance cover that is meaningful to them through their superannuation without ever worrying whether they’ll have to share the results of a genetic test.”

CALI says that when a person does disclose a genetic test to a life insurer “…it typically works in their favour by indicating a reduced risk of a certain genetic condition. In more than 80% of cases there is no impact on the final underwriting decision and in 14% of cases there is a positive impact.”

Click here to read the full CALI submission to Treasury.


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