Are there hidden risks with DNA tests like 23andME? Can they prevent you from getting life insurance or health benefits?
This holiday season many of you might have received a DNA kit to trace back your family tree and genetic history. I have ordered one and am pleased to disclose that I am descended from a very famous cobbler in the Tigris Euphrates valley that could not get into law school.
Seriously, these kits provide very interesting data for you and your loved ones to look back into your history. Many of the products on the market also provide a generic snapshot of some genetic markers in your DNA that can inform you of medical conditions to look out for.
A recent Dr.Oz episode and other online articles have created concern around whether the information that DNA tests collect can be used against you for insurance purposes, especially when applying for life insurance or medical benefits. This is mainly a concern for people in the U.S. more so than in Canada because insurance in the U.S. is private.
In the states many people are worried that these tests can be viewed as revealing pre-existing conditions that disqualify them from private insurance.
These are rational questions. For example, you order a kit to learn more about where you come from, and in the detailed report, they tell you that you carry a gene associated with early onset Parkinsons. When you fill out medical questionnaires a few months down the road you are asked to list your known medical conditions… are you obligated to tell your insurer about your DNA report and the genetic marker? Does the DNA test identifying that you are a gene carrier now manifest itself as an obligatory detail you must share on insurance and benefit forms? Could this information be used to deny you coverage or raise your premiums?
The answer is simple in my opinion… no. This information is private, purchased by you for your own amusement, it is not paid for or covered by health insurance, and because of this, you are under no obligation to reveal that you ever ordered a kit. If a health care professional orders such a genetic test , it becomes part of your medical file. If you order a test privately, it is your property and your prerogative to interpret it how you wish. You can keep the details private as you were not under a doctors care when it was ordered, and any regulatory body does not sanction it.
An interesting sidebar to note is that these DNA companies charge you a fee for your tests but also sell the genetic information anonymously to pharma companies for their drug development research. Getting thousands of samples of human DNA codes allows them to conduct research into new and improved drugs.
Private corporations have very restrictive privacy guidelines that prevent them from sharing any details about their clients or any test results. So it would be impossible for an insurance carrier to know if you got a DNA test. You do not need to reveal any details of it. Interestingly, and this has not happened yet, police may try to obtain a search warrant for test results if you become a suspect in a murder investigation… so don’t combine the two.
The question is, can an insurance company ask you if you have had a DNA test and to list the known concerns arising from the test? (they are starting to do this). What do you do? You are under no obligation to tell them about these tests, yet they are asking for info about them putting you in a tough position.
Like most people, you are likely not comfortable lying so what do you do? You can ignore the question and write N/A. This means not applicable and gives the impression that your answer is no, when in truth you are saying your question is Bullsh*t and is not applicable.
My position is that they should not be asking the question as they are using these questions to find ways to deny coverage and make more money. If they want to know the test results they can pay to have the test done so it is their property. I personally would not tell them I had a DNA test, it is none of their business, and I will not give them ammo to raise my premiums because I purchased a kit for my amusement. They are not entitled to it, and they would never know you had a test, you need to protect yourself from insurance companies seeking to increase profits and invade your privacy.
Keep your private DNA test results to yourself. However, if you are tagged as part of an at-risk population it is advisable to get professional advice from your doctor so that you can watch for signs and act fast if something ever materializes. Just know that your family doctor notes are part of a record that insurance companies can request if you make a claim for compensation later.
If you are injured at work, play, in the hospital or in your car, we are happy to provide a free consultation to see if we can help.
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By: Phillip Millar