What Is The Connection Between Life Insurance And Genetics?

Life insurance is a product that you might consider if you have a spouse, children, or those that depend on you. This is especially true if your ability to generate income is something they very much rely on. The right life insurance policy can provide money and financial security for your family in the event of your untimely demise, letting your spouse stay in the same home and possibly providing college educations for children and offspring, or even care for disabled or infirm elders according to your estate plan.

Genetic testing is something that can happen in the medical field. It’s a growing science, but the mapping and decoding of the human genome are starting to let doctors and scientists find genes that give people a predisposition to certain conditions, ailments, illnesses, and even specific diseases. This allows them to customize treatment on an individual basis, allowing for longer lives and better quality of life.

Unfortunately, while these two things are individually beneficial to individuals, together they can actually create a conflict, ranging from a headache to even a serious problem. It’s great if you’re looking to be proactive about possible health risks, and genetic testing can certainly help with that, but you might want to not get that done until after you’ve lined up a life insurance policy that’s active and likely to remain with you for a long time.

After many years of advocacy, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act was passed in 2008. It’s supposed to prevent employers and health insurance companies from doing anything discriminatory just based on any information a genetic screening might uncover. Unfortunately, GINA, as the bill is called, only protects against discrimination in the areas of employment and health insurance. It doesn’t protect against discrimination in other insurance areas such as long-term care, disability, or life insurance. Even more regrettable is that less than 1 out of 4 consumers knows this, thinking they are protected by law.

Life insurance providers price their policies based on risk calculation. Many already require physicals, and you’ll face higher rates if you’re overweight, smoke, or conduct risky activities, depending on the provider.

Their actuaries are likely to ask about genetic information, if it’s available. Anything done through your doctor or a hospital is likely going to be covered by medical privilege, but the rise of at-home and retail tests is creating databases of information that are not under privilege. As of the time of writing, there is yet to be a case of a DNA testing company to voluntarily provide such information to life insurance providers, but in an age of declining privacy and mass data, many fear it’s only a matter of time until life insurance companies require genetic testing in order to price policies. A strong fear is that some consumers might be declined policies completely based on something totally out of their control.