The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has dropped four genetic tests from its approved list, denying it has given in to mounting public pressure.
A recent House of Common’s science and technology committee hearing suggested banning insurers from using genetic test results. This hearing was sparked by a report in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine which expressed concern that genetic testing could be used improperly.
But the ABI says the four dropped genetic tests are simply irrelevant to insurance.
l Myotonic dystrophy (muscle weakness and wasting, affecting many systems such as eyes and heart) l Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) – (benign pre-cancerous polyps of the bowel lining that is inherited and can become cancerous) l Multiple endocrine neoplasia (a hereditary condition affecting the the thyroid gland) l Hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy (a slow degenerative neurological condition) ABI spokesman Vic Rance said: “We have concluded the myotonic dystrophy test will indicate whether someone will get the disease but it won’t show when it will materialise or how severe it will be. It is not sufficiently predictive for insurance purposes.
“The large majority of people who have the FAP mutation will already be symptomatic or undergoing treatment and so telling us about the test will not make much of a difference to our decision.”
And the ABI believes the small number of people that carry the multiple endocrine neoplasia gene “is statistically not enough to make any real decision”. However, Rance said: “In the future, we may wish to reconsider our decisions, depending on developments in science and technology.”
The insurance industry agrees to abide by the decisions of the Genetics and Insurance Committee (GAIC), an independent body set up by the government in November 1998.
The GAIC’s group of actuaries, insurers, academics, patient support groups and geneticists receive proposals from insurance providers and then set the criteria for evaluating specific genetic tests, their application to particular conditions and their reliability and relevance to particular types of insurance.
Rance explained that the ABI will stop using any test which the GAIC decides against and insurance policies taken out since the inception of the GAIC would be re-underwritten.
So far, the GAIC has approved only the use of the genetic test for Huntingdon’s disease in the context of life insurance. A decision is yet to be taken as to whether the test is relevant for critical illness, income protection and long term care insurance.
Other applications awaiting GAIC approval are for the genetic tests for early onset familial Alzheimer’s (for which there are two tests the results of which may have relevance to all four insurance policies) and hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (which has three tests).