Genetic Testing May Have A Dark Side

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By: Anne Bedinger, Vice President, Investments Raymond James

Like many people, I’m curious about my ancestry and my possible risk for certain diseases. Genetic tests could provide me with some peace of mind and might even start me on a track of preventive measures for whatever diseases show up in my results. I could also ask my doctor to recommend a specialist for a condition that is present in my family members. And all of this could be covered by my insurance. But I haven’t pulled the trigger on either of these options. Why is that?

For two practical reasons:

  1. Privacy- I am unclear about who can access my results and how they can use them, from the company that does the genetic tests to my doctor to my insurance company.
  2. Insurance- I am unclear whether the results could affect my attempts to procure additional life, long-term care, or disability insurance.

In the AARP Bulletin from Sept. 2017, Erica Ramos, president-elect of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, addressed these concerns. She said that U.S. laws protect consumers from being denied health insurance based on genetic tests, but there are currently no protections in place for long-term care, disability and life insurance.

When I spoke to Jim Swink, our Vice President of Raymond James Life Insurance, he agreed, adding that this is one of the biggest issues facing insurance companies. When is information too much? How can you underwrite based on a long-term medical possibility? There are significant ethical issues that must be addressed. Glenn Baker, Raymond James Regional Insurance and Planning Specialist, recently discovered what happens when a client’s genealogy tests reveal new pieces of his medical history. In this situation, Glenn had to disclose the new information to the underwriters for issuance.

What all of this taught me about the trend toward pursuing more genetic information than we ordinarily have access to, is that we need to be wary of going in that direction unless we are very sure we have all the insurance coverage we’ll ever need. My recommendation: Meet with your financial advisor to review your risk management and life plan before you make a potentially expensive and regrettable mistake.

Raymond James & Associates, Inc. Member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC 2255 Glades Rd. #120-A Boca Raton, FL 33431, 561-981-3661, Anne.Bedinger@Raymondjames.com, AnneBedinger.com