- 3 min
Do genetic tests modify the risks for insurers?
By simply sending off a sample in a package ordered online, everyone can now find out about their genetic heritage without even needing to contact their doctor. This raises many issues, including the fact that certain insurers would like to have access to such data.
Significant progress has been made in DNA research in recent years. By simply sending off a sample in a package ordered online, everyone can now find out about their genetic heritage without even needing to contact their doctor. This raises many issues, including the fact that certain insurers would like to have access to such data.
E23andMe proposes genetic testing for everyone for just $99. This company, in which Google has invested, has already compiled a database containing 2 million profiles. Things are happening fast in this field. The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just given its approval in the United States for the marketing of a cancer predisposition test for three mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. What’s new is the fact that these kits will be available without a prescription.
The popularity of DNA tests among the general public is explained by the fact that they address concerns following a family member’s illness, or simply arouse people’s curiosity about their origins.
Hereditary diseases are the subject of numerous studies. Last year, Professor Antonis Antoniou of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, revealed that the risk of breast cancer, from the start of adulthood to 80 years of age, is estimated at between 65% and 79% for women with the BRCA1 mutation.
The fear of anti-selection
The risk posed by these tests is that of anti-selection or adverse selection due to hidden information that policyholders might possess about their own risks which is unavailable to insurers. This could lead insurers to make incorrect decisions and, by requiring them to settle larger than anticipated claims, raise the premiums for other policyholders.
Contrasting international responses
Certain insurers, in Australia for example, consider that the time has come to launch a vast consultation on this issue, in order to adapt to the progress in research and the rapid development of these new practices. Recently, the Swiss National Council’s Commission for Science, Education and Culture (CSEC) debated a bill that would require citizens to transmit information about their genetic profile to their insurers and employers. Opponents of the bill argued that this would lead to widespread refusals to undergo such tests, despite their benefits to health and research. In the end, this bill was rejected.
New regulations The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – the new European data protection law, which came into force on 25 May 2018 – avoids this stumbling block by enabling patients to retain control over their data. Hospitals are strictly regulated and there are plans to render patient data anonymous.
In France, article 16-10 of the Civil Code states that a person’s genetic characteristics can only be examined for medical purposes or for scientific research. A person’s express written consent must be obtained prior to the performance of the examination, after he or she has been duly informed of its nature and purpose. This consent must mention the purpose of the examination. It may be withdrawn by simple request at any time.
All of these issues transcend the scope of insurance. While France has opted for a mechanism designed to reduce the risk of discrimination, the market for DNA testing could soar from $110 million in 2017 to $340 million in 2022, according to biologist Bertrand Jordan.