New Gene Tests Could Send Insurers Into a Death Spiral

In Healthcare On

The issue for now is with long-term care insurance, not employment and not — at least so far — health insurance.

Under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Privacy Act, companies cannot ask employees to take gene tests and cannot use any such results in employment decisions; insurers are not permitted to require gene tests or to use the results in coverage decisions.

But legislation proposed in the House would exempt corporate “wellness” programs from some of these requirements. And the American Health Care Act, passed by the House, would permit states to waive some insurance safeguards regarding pre-existing conditions.

At the moment, companies selling long-term care insurance — unlike medical insurers — are permitted to ask about health status and take future health into consideration when deciding whom to insure and how much to charge.

The 23andMe test results will not appear in people’s medical records, and the company promises not to disclose identifiable findings to third parties. It is up to the customers to reveal them — and the fear for insurers is that many will not.

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