The Association of British Insurers (ABI) and Department for Health and Social Care have published an updated code on the use of genetic testing in the insurance market.
The code is the sixth iteration of a long-standing agreement – previously called the Concordat and Moratorium on Genetics and Insurance – launched in 2001 between the ABI and the government on how insurers use genetic information.
Insurers have again committed to not asking customers about predictive genetic test results when applying for insurance.
The main difference between the updated code and the previous agreement is that the code will be open-ended, where the previous version expired every three years unless it was extended. The Abi said this should provide reassurance to the public that the insurance industry will seek to manage the need for any future change via the code.
The ABI and government will now publish a joint annual report with commentary on developments in the market. This aims to keep the industry and consumers up to speed with changes to the areas of medicine and insurance underwriting covered within the code.
In addition, the language of the code has been simplified and made more consumer-friendly.
The financial limits for life insurance, critical illness and income protection products have not changed, and Huntington’s Disease remains the only exempt illness (for applications for life insurance above £500,000).
This means 100% of applications for life insurance under the value of £500,000 are protected from having to share genetic test results.
Dr Yvonne Braun, director of long-term savings and protection at the ABI, said policies with a sum assured of more than £500,000 only make up less than 5% of the total, meaning the vast majority of people are not required to disclose any predictive genetic tests when applying for insurance.
AIG Life claimed more than 99% of its customers will continue to be exempt from the need to share predictive genetic testing if they apply for life, critical illness or income protection insurance.
“The great thing about the revised code is it supports a customer’s choice to have a genetic test if they are concerned about developing a condition,” said Debbie Bolton, head of underwriting and claims strategy at AIG Life.
Nicky Bray, Zurich’s chief underwriter, products, explained that the move to an open ended-agreement shows commitment from the industry to future change to benefit customers and managing it via the code.
“As well as making its language more customer friendly, we are confident the changes will reassure people that personal genetic information will not be requested or used when they apply for insurance,” Bray added.
Toby Bainbridge, head of protection solutions at Royal London, said: “Individuals considering taking a predictive genetic test should be reassured that the information cannot be used unfavourably when applying for insurance.”