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About to Have a Genetic Test? Think Twice and Consider…

  March 06, 2019

By Steven A Buttice

In recent years, there has 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 people for insurance rates. On the other hand, privacy advocates state this invades a person’s privacy for an issue in which the person has no control. How are 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, not having genetic testing may enable you 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 four times higher. That person 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 necessarily 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 exams, prescription databases, or the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). The MIB maintains records of medical procedures, tests, hospital stays, and examinations kept in a database for seven 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 searching for insurance coverage 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 the 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 five years of medical records and the MIB show seven 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. Then consider asking to have the genetic testing done as a research study.

Resources: one resource is the National Society of Genetic Counselors, The US National Library of Medicine,, is another. As always, feel free to contact our office if you have questions.

For more information, contact Living By Your Design, Inc., focusing on the issues of older Americans:  legal, financial, free guidance for residential placement and healthcare issues. Call 309-285-8088. Web: Location: 809 W. Detweiller Dr., Peoria.
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March 06, 2019


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