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April 12, 2011updated 13 Apr 2017 8:49am

Genetic testing in the UK still a no-no

A final decision on the use of genetic testing by life insurers in the UK has again been put on long-term hold Originally due to expire this year, the Concordat and Moratorium on Genetics, which dates back to 2001, has been extended to 2017, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) announced in early-April. The Concordat and Moratorium on the use of predictive genetic test results works well for consumers," said ABI director of general insurance Nick Starling

By LII editorial

A final decision on the use of genetic testing by life insurers in the UK has again been put on long-term hold. Originally due to expire this year, the Concordat and Moratorium on Genetics, which dates back to 2001, has been extended to 2017, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) announced in early-April.

“The Concordat and Moratorium on the use of predictive genetic test results works well for consumers,” said ABI director of general insurance Nick Starling. “It means people can insure themselves and their families, even if they have had an adverse result from a predictive genetic test.”

Under the moratorium, the results of a predictive genetic test will not affect a consumer’s ability to take out any type of insurance other than life insurance over £500,000 ($800,000). Only around 3% of all policies sold are above these limits, according to the ABI.

Above £500,000, insurers will not use adverse predictive genetic test results unless the test has been approved by the government. At present only the test for Huntington’s Disease is approved.

Commenting on the extended moratorium, the UK’s health minister Anne Milton commented: “This is an excellent agreement that has benefited both patients and consumers.

“The extension of the moratorium will ensure that the public continue to have confidence in using predictive genetic tests and being insured.”

The use of genetics by insurers has evoked strong public opposition since it was first mooted in the UK in the 1990s. At the time, it had strong backing from the government.

The issue of genetic testing was the subject of an extensive study in 2003 published by the Institute of Actuaries.

On the negative perceptions of genetic testing, the study’s authors noted: “There is a deep-seated fear that increased knowledge of any genetic mutations may render individuals uninsurable, and thus lead to the development of a significant genetic underclass.”

On the perspective of life insurers, the authors said: “Insurers are worried about the practical and financial consequences of an increasing number of people knowing from genetic tests that they have a genetic mutation which increases their susceptibility to illness which is either likely to lead to premature death or to early claims.”

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