Genes and insurance

A genes test could inform you about the increased risk of certain diseases. More people may want to take this test. However, the insurance industry is displeased about these tests.

People can order these tests online. A company in California 23andMe has already collected more than 4000 litres of sputum since 2007. 23andMe is a privately held genomics and biotechnology company in Mountain View, California. The company is named for the 23 pairs of chromosomes in a normal human cell. In 2007, 23andMe became the first company to begin offering autosomal DNA testing for ancestry. Two million people were given information about their ancestry and health risks.

23andMe received regulatory approval to screen for risk factors related to ten diseases and conditions. These diseases include Alzheimers and Parkinson’s.

Insurers want to have access to this information about genes. This information will harm the companies.

On the other hand, consumer groups feel that insurers will use genes information to exclude people from coverage. These advances will, however, impact insurance companies. These tests could influence medical as well as financial decisions. A person who has been shown to potentially have the risk of getting a critical illness could take out critical illness coverage, which pays a lump sum on diagnosis.

A person who has the risk of dying at a young age may take out a well-paying life assurance policy, payable upon his death to his spouse or relatives. Predictive tests need not be disclosed, unlike diagnostic tests.

Asymmetry information is when a customer knows more than the insurer. This is an insurer’s nightmare. On the other hand, for health and life insurers, who want to keep people alive and well, this information could be invaluable.

Discovery, a South African health insurer, plans to offer customers a test that maps part of their genome. The focus is on “actionable data” where medical intervention or lifestyle change that could mitigate risk.