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The Geneva Association: Life Insurers Should Prepare for Implications of Genetics in Highly Fragmented Regulatory Landscape

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The Geneva Association, the leading international think tank of the insurance industry, has released the research paper Genetics and Life Insurance: A view into the microscope of regulation, in which it reviews key aspects of the use of genetic information in life insurance.

The use of genetic information for life, disability, critical illness and long-term care insurance is likely to increase in spite of a highly fragmented regulatory environment. The growing availability of genetic testing at ever lower prices is already giving insureds the option to purchase online “direct-to-consumer” tests. One of the questions raised is whether policyholders should be required to share their genetic information with life insurers.

The paper focuses specifically on the regulatory implications of genetic testing. Ronald Klein, Director of The Geneva Association’s Global Ageing research programme, identified that for life, disability, critical illness and long-term care insurance, regulations on the use of genetic information typically fall into five categories. Therefore, there is a whole spectrum ranging from countries that have no genetic-specific regulatory framework; to countries with a clear-cut prohibition or moratorium on the use of genetic information. Each scenario—including the ones in between—has different consequences.

A crucial implication of widespread use of genetic information in insurance is anti-selection by individuals who discover, after taking a genetic test, that they are pre-disposed to certain medical conditions.

“Voluntary insurance is based upon the principle of pooling of like risks. When a potential policyholder has information about his or her health that is not shared with the insurance company, this could lead to anti-selection where poorer risks purchase more insurance and better risks purchase little or no insurance. An insurer would find it extremely difficult to cover claim payments with existing revenues for pools in which there were many anti-selective risks,” Mr Klein commented.

The asymmetry of information may distort the functioning of insurance markets, as insurers would lack information that would help them better price the risk. The asymmetry would also affect insureds who avoid taking medical or genetic tests due to fear of being denied insurance, which could adversely affect their health.

“Life insurers need to closely monitor trends in genetic science and proactively engage with stakeholders (including regulators, medical professionals, industry groups, and genetic counsellors) to agree reasonable ‘self-regulation’, in order to pre-empt regulation in the future,” said Mr Klein. “This may be a prudent approach to counterbalance unwanted restrictive regulation.”

Download the full report

Interview with Ronald Klein, Director - Global Ageing, The Geneva Association

Download the infographic or watch the animation

Contact information

The Geneva Association
Daniel Perez-Whitaker
Director of Communications
+41 44 200 4906
daniel_perezwhitaker@genevaassociation.org
or
Isabel Barratt
Communications Manager
+41 44 200 49 96
isabel_barratt@genevaassociation.org

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