Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Health Insurers Barred from Using Genetic Testing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Health Insurers Barred from Using Genetic Testing

Article excerpt

Scientists' success in unlocking the mysteries of the human gene

holds great hope for curing disease.

But when it comes to insurance, the same knowledge portends

great fear.

Long before medicine develops treatments for inherited disease,

it creates tests capable of revealing the predispositions to

cancer, high blood pressure and other diseases that shorten life

and cost a great deal of money to treat.

And such genetic tests could abet health and life insurers'

bottom lines, allowing them to turn away those whose genes

reveal a proclivity to disease.

Some health insurers, particularly those serving small

employers, carefully screen newcomers to their plans to make

sure they are not offering coverage to those who are more likely

to get sick.

In theory, a woman who had a gene that increased the likelihood

of breast cancer could be declined coverage years before any

disease occurs.

Florida lawmakers took a stand on genetic testing in the final

days of the session, passing a law that restricts health

insurers' use of genetic tests.

But the measure neglected to tackle the issue when it comes to

life insurance.

"Health insurers would be prohibited from using genetic testing

to underwrite or to establish separate premiums," said Sam

Miller, a spokesman for the Florida Insurance Council, an

industry trade group.

As the bill made its way through the Legislature, the industry

lobbied successfully to eliminate proposed criminal and civil

penalties for disclosure of any genetic testing information, he

said.

The industry also fought to ensure that the genetic testing

language would not lead to challenges of any existing practices,

such as testing for cholesterol, blood sugar and other

indicators of disease. …

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