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How are genetic test results being used by Australian life insurers?

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 19:37 authored by Barlow-Stewart, K, Liepins, M, Doble, A, Margaret OtlowskiMargaret Otlowski
In Australia, the USA and many Asian countries the life insurance industry is self-regulated. Individuals must disclose genetic test results known to them in applications for new or updated policies including cover for critical care, income protection and death. There is limited information regarding how underwriting decisions are made for policies with such disclosures. The Australian Financial Services Council (FSC) provided de-identified data collected on applications with genetic test result disclosure from its life insurance member companies 2010–2013 to enable repetition of an independent examination undertaken of applications 1999-2003: age; gender; genetic condition; testing result; decision-maker; and insurance cover. Data was classified as to test result alone or additional other factors relevant to risk and decision. Where necessary, the FSC facilitated clarification by insurers. 345/548 applications related to adult-onset conditions. The genetic test result solely influenced the decision in 165/345 applications: positive (n = 23), negative (n = 139) and pending (n = 3). Detailed analyses of the decisions in each of these result categories are presented with specific details of 11 test cases. Policies with standard decisions were provided for all negative test results with evidence of reassessment of previous nonstandard decisions and 20/23 positive results with recognition of risk reduction strategies. Disclosure of positive results for breast/ovarian cancer, Lynch syndrome and hereditary spastic paraplegia, and three pending results, generated non-standard decisions. The examination demonstrates some progress in addressing concerns in regard to utilisation of genetic test information but the self-regulatory system in Australia only goes some way in meeting internationally recommended best practice.


Publication title

European Journal of Human Genetics








Faculty of Law


Nature Publishing Group

Place of publication

Macmillan Building, 4 Crinan St, London, England, N1 9Xw

Rights statement

Copyright 2018 The Authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Justice and the law not elsewhere classified

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