The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is extending its moratorium on the use of predictive genetic testing, to 2014.
The moratorium was established in 2001 and covers policies worth up to £500,000 for life insurance; £300,000 for critical illness insurance and £30,000 a year for income protection insurance.
The extension leaves consumers free to apply for cover up to these levels without advising an insurance company of the adverse results of any predictive genetic test they have taken.
According to the ABI, around 3% of policies sold in the UK are above these limits and in these cases, insurers can request predictive genetic tests but only if the tests are approved by an independent Government committee.
So far, despite insurers’ strongly resisted attempts to get other tests approved, the only test that has been approved in this way is for Huntington’s disease, for life cover over £500,000.
Insurer trade body ABI has tried to spin this as good news for consumers but it is nothing of the sort. Changes in genetic testing and science mean that the entire world of genetic tests has changed hugely since 2001.
In the USA, a new Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2007 prohibits health insurance companies from using genetic information to deny benefits or raise premiums for individual policies. Huge fines can be imposed on any insurer breaking the law.
Increasingly, the UK is out of step with the rest of the world. The new US legislation and huge scientific strides in genetic testing shows up the UK moratorium as a clumsy, unenforceable, outdated mess. There is an urgent need for UK legislation that prohibits life and health insurers from charging higher premiums or declining risks based on the results of genetic tests and from requesting, or otherwise using, genetic information when establishing premiums.