Case study reveals genetic discrimination in life insurance

September 2, 2013

A case study presented by health and legal experts from the University of Melbourne and University of Tasmania revealed an example of life insurance companies discriminating due to genetic test results for cancer pre-disposition.

Lead author Dr Louise Keogh from the School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne said "This case presents evidence that have made incorrect risk-assessment judgments based on genetic information."

"In addition, we have previously found that the fear of such discrimination can act as a deterrent to genetic testing."

Published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) today, the authors are calling on a more between industry, government and researchers to address these issues.

The case study published revealed that James (pseudonym) in his early 20s, was denied full life insurance cover because he revealed that he had discussed with a genetic counsellor.

He was later tested and found to carry a mutation in the MSH6 gene; after disclosing this, he was denied cover for cancer by two other life insurance companies.

Unsatisfied with the insurance companies' , and based on his understanding that regular screening significantly reduced his risk of cancer, James made a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Dr Louise Keogh said, "After informing the third insurance company that he had done so, he was offered full coverage, which suggests that the company did not have actuarial data to justify its decision."

Professor Margaret Otlowski from the University of Tasmania said "This case provides evidence of the high level of initiative and proactivity required for a consumer to achieve a fair result. Few Australians would be in a position to pursue the level of research and advocacy undertaken by James (a professional with scientific training)."

"It demonstrates the need for further conversation and action on the use of genetic test results by life insurance companies."

Explore further: Safeguards against misuse of genetic data urged

Related Stories

Safeguards against misuse of genetic data urged

May 29, 2012

Rapid advancements in genetic disease research necessitate innovative safeguards for patients, according to new American Heart Association policy recommendations published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal.

Administration: 'Obamacare' to offer more choices

May 30, 2013

(AP)—The White House says insurance companies are showing interest in providing coverage under the new health care law, a development likely to increase market competition and give uninsured people more choices than they ...

Consumers don't understand health insurance, research shows

August 1, 2013

This fall, as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), Americans will have a greater range of health care insurance options to choose from, including, for many, state-based plans. But will they make the right decisions? ...

Recommended for you

Higher intelligence score means better physical performance

August 14, 2015

New research reveals a distinct association between male intelligence in early adulthood and their subsequent midlife physical performance. The higher intelligence score, the better physical performance, the study reveals. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.