Life insurers should not have access to genetic test results, parliament told

A parliamentary inquiry has been told that life insurers should not have access to genetic testing information. The Australian Genetic Non-Discrimination Working Group chair Professor Margaret Otlowski's argument is that refusal of insurance cover based on genetic make-up was not fair. Legislation currently exists in Europe and Canada to protect consumers from insurers using genetic information in underwriting decisions via restrictions on access to this information. 

Otlowski said, 'Despite claims by insurance companies that adverse selection would result if they were not given access to genetic test information, we note there is very little or no evidence put forward to support such claims.' 

'Expert evidence given before that decision was made suggested it would not have a significant impact on insurers or the operation of an efficient insurance market.'

An example used was of a woman who underwent a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer after a test indicated a high risk factor, however her insurer didn't use this information when assessing her insurance cover. She should have been treated as having a lower risk than the average Australian woman, Professor Otlowski said. She said this case casts doubt on whether the insurance industry can properly manage this information in a fair way. 

Otlowski is calling on the government to recommend a restriction on insurers accessing this information, and not let it be left to industry to decide what to do with genetic information. Ideally, she said, no genetic test information would be in the hands of insurers.