No Medical Insurance For Australians With Bad Genes...
Researchers have completed the first study in the world to help provide proof that people have been refused medical insurance due to their genetic makeup.
The study surveyed more than 1000 Australian people who had attended clinical genetic services about their experiences of discrimination.
Most cases were found to relate to life insurance policies. In one instance, a man with a gene linked to a greater risk of breast and prostate cancer was denied insurance that would have let him claim if he developed other forms of cancer.
In light of the findings, experts are pushing to ensure the appropriate use of genetic test results by the insurance industry.
The director of the Centre for Genetics Education at Royal North Shore Hospital, Kristine Barlow-Stewart, said the research also showed consumers needed to be better informed about their rights.
“Eighty-five per cent of the people in the study didn’t know where to go to seek assistance if they had been discriminated against.”
Out of the 1000 cases reviewed, the researchers were able to verify 11 cases of genetic discrimination, and their results are published in the journal Genetics in Medicine.
“Previous to this paper, only anecdotal reports of genetic discrimination have been available, with some commentators questioning whether or not the phenomenon actually existed,” Professor Barlow-Stewart said.
In one case, two women with the same genetic fault linked to breast cancer applied for income protection to the same insurer three years apart. One was denied any type of cover, while the other was offered insurance with an exclusion of breast cancer.
The Insurance and Financial Services Association justified it’s different decisions on the grounds that scientific information had been updated. “But I don’t believe consumers should be penalised while the insurance companies are learning,” said Professor Barlow-Stewart. She suggested an expert panel be established to advise on which tests are sufficiently well understood to be used for insurance purposes.
This was one of the recommendations of a 2003 report by the Australian Law Reform Commission. “And it still hasn’t happened.”
Under the current indstry guidelines, insurers cannot order people to have a genetic test, but those who have been tested must reveal their results. It is only legal for companies to use this information if they can justify their decisions.
In the case of the man with the breast cancer gene, genetic experts judged his exclusion from claims relating to all forms of cancer was too broad.
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