Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How much should we allow?

I discovered a story about insurance companies declining (discriminating against) customers based on the results of genetic testing. It made me think about the difference between discriminating based on genetic testing verses declining based on a previous condition. At first glance, it seems crazy to think that an insurance company could reject you because there is a "probability" that you "could" one day have a genetic disorder. It doesn't seem like a legal way of dealing with the issue. However, I know that they can decline clients who had an illness before, such as a form of cancer, but have made a full recovery. Is there really a difference? Its easy to say that because someone already had the condition before that it could return, but neither are really known. I understand that the company is sticking their neck out for you when they accept you as a client, but should they be able to turn you away based on either of these issues? Any thoughts?


Blogger Vaughn Ganiyu said...

It may seem unfair, but this is actually a big dilemma that many people face when they are given the option of taking a genetic test. I have been doing research into looking at the consequences of genetic testing in employment and the possibility of discriminations by employers and health providers. As of today, there are only a few legal resources that individuals can rely on to protect themselves from discrimination through genetic testing. The Americans with Disability Act of 1990 is one piece of legislation that the EEOC believes protects employees from being discriminated against based on their genetic tests, but many privacy advocates complain that the ADA was not intended to cover genetic testing, leaving the final decision of discrimination up to judicial interpretation.

With respect to the health industry, the government enacted the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 to protect the privacy of individuals with respect to their medical history. It also stated asymptomatic genetic status does not count as a "condition" that insurance companies can use to limit coverage. Even under HIPAA, insurance companies can impose higher premiums for members of group plans due to the genetic history of a small number of people within that group. This may seem unfair, but until more comprehensive legislation is developed insurance companies can use genetic information to impose premiums or deny clients based on their results. As a result, many advocates for privacy are now proposing for a genetic information bill to be passed through Congress.

11:30 PM  

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