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General practitioners (GPs) are well placed to advise patients to consider the implications around health and life insurance for themselves and their families before embarking on genetic testing.
Private health insurance is community-rated (ie based on population risk), and does not take into account genetic information, but will take into account any existing condition.
However, individuals applying for a new life insurance policy (eg cover for death, disability, income protection) are required by law to disclose ‘every matter known to the applicant, or could reasonably be expected to be known, that is relevant to the insurer’s decision’.1 This includes the results of any genetic tests.
While some insurance companies will ask for more specific details than others, applicants must disclose all known genetic information about themselves and their relatives that would be relevant to the assessment of their risk, over and above the questions asked. This includes predictive test results of their relatives, and a failure to do so may render a claim invalid.2
This information may have a range of consequences, depending on the condition involved and whether the genetic test was positive, uninformative or negative.
If an application for health and/or life insurance is held or taken out before a genetic condition is diagnosed, or before a risk is identified through a predictive genetic test, the applicant does not have to disclose this new information. Life insurance cover is guaranteed renewable and, so as long as the premiums are paid, that cover will apply.
Resources for general practitioners
Centre for Genetics Education, Fact sheet 20: Life insurance products and genetic testing in Australia
National Health and Medical Research Council, Genetic discrimination