Now that genetic testing is being successfully used to solve many life-threatening illnesses, more consumers are likely to purchase disability insurance policies before obtaining such tests. Otherwise, if people wait until after these tests possibly reveal that they have one or more serious disabilities, they’re likely to either be turned down for a policy or be charged much higher premiums than non-disabled applicants.
In many ways, the future handling of disability policies may soon resemble America's past situation where people seeking basic health insurance policies were routinely turned down (or required to pay grossly inflated premiums) -- simply because they had pre-existing conditions.
At present, most disability insurance carriers are not screening policy applicants by inquiring about the results obtained from any genetic testing. However, some disability insurance executives have admitted that they'd actually like to do this – but they “just don't want to be the first.” As it turns out, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance is currently asking “potential customers in Massachusetts about genetic testing.” Therefore, this type of inquiry will probably be picked up by many other similar companies in the near future.
Additional, Problematic Ties between Disability Insurance and Genetic Testing
Some consumer advocates are afraid that if appropriate legislation isn’t passed right away, some insurance companies that require complete physicals may surreptitiously test blood samples themselves -- for specific genetic markers related to breast and colon cancer, as well as Alzheimer's disease. They might then not be fully forthcoming as to the “true”reasons why they’re turning down specific applicants;
Today, you can often obtain genetic testing (which you may have to pay for on your own), for $1000 or possibly less in some cases. If many doctors start to strongly urge patients to obtain such tests – which specific privacy rights must the doctors fully honor when asked to disclose the results of such tests to outside parties?
Postponing genetic tests in some cases could definitely hasten certain people's deaths. Yet, “many people are avoiding the tests because of a major omission in [the governing] 2008 federal law that bans employers and health insurers from seeking the results of genetic testing;”
“GINA,” the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act doesn’t apply to disability, life and long-term care insurance policies. As a result, “many patients who may be at risk for inherited diseases [are] fearful that a positive result could be used against them.”
Since many additional disability insurance companies are likely to soon start requesting the results of any genetic testing that you may have had done – it’s becoming far more important for everyone to consider obtaining such policies before insidious forms of discrimination start quietly becoming the new norm in our society.
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