In all but one G7 country, there are laws to protect people from losing rights based on their genetics.
There is a rising belief among geneticists that the completion of genome sequencing would cause people to discover things about themselves that they don’t want to know, but many don’t realize that health insurance discrimination could also result from this type of test.
These tests produce a detailed analysis of a person’s complete genetic code and they are not expensive to obtain.
Naturally, DNA tests will not guarantee that a person will or will not develop a certain disease or condition, but they can help to reveal a genetic predisposition for certain inherited diseases such as certain cancers or Huntington’s disease. This type of knowledge could potentially place an individual at risk of health insurance discrimination if certain laws were not put into place in order to protect him or her. That said, despite the fact that nearly all G7 countries have established this type of regulation, there is one that has failed to do so.
That said, that country, Canada, is now in the process of forming a new federal law, called the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act – which would provide a range of protections to individuals, including a rule that would stop insurance companies from being able to require a policyholder or potential customer from taking a genetic test. The act would also ban a health insurer from being able to require that someone provide the results of a genetic test they have already received.
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Laws against genetic health insurance discrimination are meant to stop insurers from withholding coverage based on DNA.
Still, despite the fact that Canada’s government is trying to move forward with this insurance industry law, the insurers within the country are fighting back. These health insurance companies, which already require detailed health data from consumers who want to purchase or continue coverage are battling against the potential law in the hopes of being able to demand that current and future policyholders be required to hand over DNA test results.
According to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association general counsel, Frank Zinatelli, “We just want the capacity to be able to collect information when it is valid and relevant to the risk.” This was stated during a recent panel discussion which was held in Toronto at the International Association of Privacy Professionals, when speaking on the subject of health insurance discrimination.