About to have a genetic test? Think Twice and Consider…

In recent years there have been more talk of genetic testing, but can that test affect your ability to buy insurance?  The unfortunate answer is “yes”.  Insurance companies, other than Health Insurance Companies - Obamacare (ACA) can use this information to charge higher premiums or decline your coverage altogether.

As of today insurance companies continue to lobby to access this information stating it allows them to better class a people for insurance rates.  On the other hand, privacy advocates states this invades a person’s privacy in for an issue at which the person has no control.  Then, how is this and like issues handled in the future?

So, what does this mean to you?  If you are 30 years old buying life insurance for the protection of your family, without genetic testing you may be able to get the best possible premium rating.  However, the same person who has had a genetic test showing markers for a life threatening disease may have a premium 4 times higher.  They could even be declined.

What is genetic testing?  Simply, it is a medical test which identifies changes in your chromosomes, genes or proteins.  The results can identify if you are predisposed to one or more certain diseases.  The results can also show you the likelihood of passing these genes to your children.  It’s important to note that having a positive result does not necessary mean that you will contract the disease.

How do insurance companies find your genetic testing results?  Commonly they are found in your doctor’s records, medical exam, prescription data base or the Medical Information Bureau (MIB).  The MIB maintains records of medical procedures, tests, hospital stays and examinations kept in a database for 7 years.

 So, what can you do?  First, be prudent.  If you are considering genetic testing or even speaking with your doctor about a genetic marker a family member found through a genetic test, talk with a genetic counselor.   Ask if this testing can be considered part of a research study.  If so, these records do not go into your medical file.  You may ask yourself what you would do differently if you knew you had the marker and start doing it now, without taking the test.  Consider postponing a test until after your current insurance program is in order – talk with an insurance professional.  

If you have already had a positive genetic test, ask your agent questions:  What insurance companies do not ask genetic testing questions? Is there a No-Medical exam company that you can use?  What’s he premium difference?  Will I need an exam for this company?  Some insurance companies underwrite genetic testing and pre-existing conditions differently – Ask which companies might work best in your situation.  

One might think this only applies to younger people buying life insurance.  That would be a mistake.  Genetic testing also plays a role in underwriting for long term care insurance.  Know that insurance companies only request 5 years of medical records and the MIB show 7 years.  If the insurance company does not ask a generic testing question – it would be best not to volunteer that information.  Be prudent, do your research and work with qualified professionals in the insurance industry and genetic counselors. 

So, what can you do?  Research how genetic testing may affect you. Put your insurance protection in order.  Talk with a Genetic Counselor.  The consider asking to have the genetic testing done as a research study.

Resources:  A resource is the “National Society of Genetic Counselors www.nsgc.org. The US National Library of Medicine:  https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/testing .   As always, feel free to contact our office if you have questions.

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