The government is set to impose a ban on insurers’ use of genetic information about policyholders, according to a report.
The report, from the Commons Science and Technology Committee, said that ministers have tried for four years to persuade insurers to agree to a voluntary ban, as the issue raised moral and ethical concerns that a “genetic underclass” will be created.
But at least three insurers have ignored advice from the Human Genetics Advisory Commission which recommended a moratorium on the use of such information, according to the Commons Science and Technology Committee.
MPs were also concerned that people with potential genetic problems might be deterred from taking tests or seeking clinical advice and that research into diseases may be affected.
The committee said that cases involving genetic results comprise far less than one thousandth of all current business.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) code of practice states that insurers should not ask someone to take a genetic test for insurance purposes. But, if someone had taken a test insurers would ask for the result.
Applicants are normally charged according to the risk – such as age or medical history – they bring to the pool of people insured.
The committee does not favour legislation which denies insurers access to all genetic test results. If a person’s family history suggests the possibility of a genetic defect, but they have had negative test results, it is in their interests that these should be taken into account by insurers.
So far the Genetics and Insurance Committee (GAIC), the regulatory body, has only given permission for life insurers to use test results for assessing the risk of Huntingdon’s disease.
It is also studying applications for familial early onset Alzheimer’s disease.