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Genetic testing for insurance

A PROPOSAL to use genetic testing when granting customers discounts on life insurance is being considered in Australia.

Similar schemes operate in the US. Customers are tested to see if they have a genetic pre-disposition to life-threatening illnesses.

People without pre-dispositions are given a discount on their life insurance policy.

However, insurers do not want the scheme.

The Investment and Financial Services Association applied to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for authorisation for some restriction on the use of genetic testing for life insurance purposes.

In a draft ruling the ACCC rejected the application, saying it would be anti-competitive.

It considered submissions from the Australian Medical Association, the Australian Health Ethics Committee, the Human Genetic Society of Australasia and the Common-wealth Department of Health and Aged Care.

However, the ACCC now seems to be back pedalling.

ACCC chairman Allan Fels said the groups consulted said the IFSA scheme had no benefit for the public.

“Now the AMA has apparently changed its mind since then by proposing another arrangement,” Professor Fels said.

“The ACCC considered these submissions and, as there were clear anti-competitive effects, and as it shared the view of the above groups that the scheme had little public benefit, in a draft decision proposed to reject the application.

“The decision is a draft one. The ACCC has since had a hearing and it will consider fresh information and proposals – as the process of authorisation provides – before issuing its final decision.”

Australian Medical Assoc-iation WA immediate past president Rosanna Capolingua-Host said there were a number of issues about genetic testing that had not been finalised.

“There are confidentiality issues, family concerns and fears over what the results will be used for later on,” Dr Capolingua-Host said.

“This opens up a Pandora’s Box of other issues.

“What if you find you have the breast cancer gene and we find out next year the breast cancer gene is linked to the melanoma gene?

“Genetic testing may show a pre-disposition to a medical condition. However, it does not take into account environmental and social considerations.

“Somebody may have a pre-disposition to the lung cancer gene but never get lung cancer because they do not smoke.”

Dr Capolingua-Host said privacy legislation before the Federal Parliament did not even consider genetic issues.

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