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New legislation limiting how genetic testing is used in insurance underwriting is a positive step forward.

We've discussed genetic issues and insurance previously here at the 'Dispatch, but there've been some new legislative developments that spur us to take another look.

The House recently passed legislation that prohibits insurers from discriminating against folks based on genetic testing. It's supported by a fairly bipartisan group of folks, including America’s Health Insurance Plans and both Speaker Pesoli and Minority Leader Boehner.

The Senate passed a similar bill, which means that the two will begin the reconciliation process (and no, their marriage isn't in trouble; that's just gummint-speak). The House's version forbids carriers from basing premiums or employee contributions on the results of genetic testing, and tightens up confidentiality rules (as if these aren't tight enough already).

It's not clear that the bill will prevent carriers from actually learning the results of these kinds of tests, which may be a good thing: for one, insurers could use this information to help providers fashion specific treatment plans.

For another, conditions which already exhibit symptoms are excluded from the definition of "genetic information." This means they'd be "fair game" for underwriting. Why is this acceptable? Well, it's the difference between "might cause problems" and "is currently causing problems." Underwriters are prohibited from using test results that indicate possible future treatments, but those which are already underway need to be priced in to the final rates.

As in any other compromise, neither side is likely to be completely satisfied, which I take as a good sign.

And there's this: employers would be prohibited from using genetic information in hiring, firing, job placements or promotions. And that's as it should be: one's job status should be a function of one's ability and work ethic, not genetic makeup.

PERSONAL NOTE: This will be my final Insurance Dispatch (at least for a while). I've really enjoyed having a weekly forum here at Trusted.MD, and learned a lot from the experience (not the least of which is: it's hard to blog pretty much every day at IB, every week at Trusted.MD, run a reasonably-successful insurance practice, teach insurance in two states, and spend an occasional hour or so with my family - something's gotta give). So I bid you all adieu, and look forward to checking back here often to see how y'all are doing. HGS

Be well.

Henry Stern, LUTCF, CBC is an independent insurance agent in Dayton, OH. A licensed Continuing Education instructor for Ohio and Kentucky, he has well over 20 years of experience in “the biz.” He blogs every day (or so it seems) at InsureBlog.

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from InsureBlog on Sun, 05/06/2007 - 1:11pm

This week, we look at some new legislation affecting how insurance carriers must deal with genetic testing. Here's a taste:

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