A moratorium on the use of genetic test results in life insurance underwriting is coming up for review. 

With the self-regulated moratorium expiring in 2022, a new research project has been launched to ensure the review gets independent and adequate evidence.

In July 2019, following Parliamentary Joint Committee recommendations, the insurance industry voluntarily introduced a moratorium restricting the use of genetic test results in life insurance underwriting for policies worth up to AU$500,000.

“Although the moratorium is an important step, concerns remain around the financial limits, public awareness, lack of government oversight and compliance monitoring,” says Dr Jane Tiller, an ethical, legal and social adviser in public health genomics.

“Although health insurance is community-rated in Australia and therefore not subject to genetic discrimination, the use of genetic test results in life insurance is allowed under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).

“This means that life insurance companies can legally refuse coverage or increase premiums based on genetic test results.”

Previous studies have shown that fear of insurance discrimination is deterring people from taking clinically indicated genetic tests and participating in genetic research. 

Genomic test results can not only reveal risk (positive results), but also indicate reduced risk (negative results), potentially changing the way insurance companies do their calculations.

The experts say it is critical for the optimisation of genomic medicine that poeple can make informed choices about genetic testing and research participation without fear of insurance implications.

Moral implications regarding the use of genetic information for insurance underwriting “extend beyond actuarial fairness to include consideration of public interests such as justice, beneficence, autonomy and public health”, according to an article on the matter in the Medical Journal of Australia. 

“Several governments internationally have therefore banned or restricted the use of genetic test results in risk-rated insurance, including Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe, using various legal mechanisms,” the experts say.