Inquiry calls for ban on life insurance genetic testing results being used in underwriting

A Parliamentary Inquiry has recommended that Australian Life Insurers no longer be able to use predictive genetic testing results in underwriting. Dr. Paul Lacaze, head of genomics at Monash Public Health and Preventative Medicine, has openly supported this recommendation and said if the ban is ended it will enable progress in healthcare and medical research.

Dr. Lacaze and colleague Jane Tiller presented to the inquiry and argued the current self-regulated use of genetic information has negative consequences for research and consumers. The Inquiry’s findings show that people forgo potentially life-saving tests or don’t participate in medical genetic research because of fears of genetic discrimination by insurers.

Tiller said the inquiry’s recommendation will protect the rights of Australians who proactively manage their genetic health risks and research participants.

Australian who are at risk of cancer due to inherited genetic mutations, as well as other genetic conditions, are bearing the brunt of the current practices. The recommendation allows for people to willingly supply their genetic information to show they are not at risk.

A number of Australian cases brought to the Inquiry’s attention showed individuals who were able to decrease their risk of cancer were still denied life insurance coverage. Current Australian practices are a serious concern for medical researchers. All genetic testing results are required to be disclosed to life insurers by applicants, which has led to some people declining to participate in research or remaining uninsured. 

The inquiry has called for the Financial Services Council to update its code to prohibit the practice, and a ban will be in place until the code is updated.