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Genetic testing results can lead to disability insurance denials

Genetic testing has advanced significantly in recent years. More people are undergoing genetic testing to find out if they have genetic markers that increase the likelihood of contracting cancer and a number of other serious conditions.

Actress/director Angelina Jolie wrote an editorial in the New York Times last year about the genetic testing that showed her to be at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. That testing led her to get a preventative double mastectomy.

People who choose not to take such drastic preventative measures when faced with this information can still begin getting screened for conditions at an earlier age and more often. Some begin treatments that can improve the length and quality of their life.

In an effort to prevent people from avoiding such potentially life-saving tests for fear of being denied health insurance or jobs, U.S. lawmakers passed the Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act in 2008. This made it illegal for health insurance plans or employers to discriminate based on risk factors revealed in genetic testing.

GINA, however, does not apply to life and disability insurance plans. It remains legal for insurers to deny coverage not only to the person who underwent the testing, but to everyone in their family currently and in the future.

You may not be able to prevent discrimination of other family members by not telling them. The plethora of information available on genealogy and other websites give insurers other ways to learn more about people than they know about themselves.

Unfortunately, some people unwittingly make this information easy for insurance companies and employers to find by discussing it on social media. This is one more reason to keep confidential information off of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Even though employers can’t legally discriminate against you for a genetic predisposition, they don’t have to give a reason why they didn’t call you in for an interview or offer you a job.

Obviously any decision about undergoing genetic testing should be made in consultation with medical professionals. The value of the knowledge it can provide may very well outweigh any insurance considerations. However, until and unless the law is changed to prohibit insurers from denying disability and life insurance coverage based on genetic predispositions, and you and your family are counting on having this insurance, it may be wise to get some legal advice as well.

Source:  The Huffington Post, “Hacking Your Genome: How Insurance Companies Legally Discriminate Against You and Your Family” Sharon Moalem, Apr. 08, 2014

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