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  1. Opinion

Life insurers should not get your DNA | Chris Sprowls

Life insurers should be banned from using genetic testing results to determine rates or coverage, the next House speaker writes.
Florida Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor. (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan) [BOBBY CAINA CALVAN  |  AP]
Florida Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor. (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan) [BOBBY CAINA CALVAN | AP]
Published Jan. 12

Did you know that the DNA testing kit you received for Christmas could be used against you? Did you know that your life insurance and disability insurance rates could skyrocket as a result of these genetic testing kits?

While these kits promise the gift of information and data, what the advertisements don’t tell us is who else can benefit and even profit from our personal, genetic information.

Already in state and federal law, health insurance companies cannot access genetic testing results outside of what is already included in an individuals’ medical history when assessing rates or coverage. Unfortunately, that same prohibition does not extend to life insurance, disability or long-term care companies. In fact, some genetic testing companies can sell consumers’ information to these third parties.

In turn, it is conceivable these life, long-term care or disability insurance companies could alter, deny or cancel any policies based on the results of genetic testing. Imagine if life insurers were able to obtain your DNA test and then charge you more – which in the case of life insurance could be for years, even decades – just because a genetic test said you may be more prone to developing a medical condition or inheriting a disease.

Consider this scenario: You exercise, eat healthy and are the picture of good health. Yet you carry a genetic marker that says you may develop a disease or are even prone to obesity, so your life insurance premiums increase based on these genetic possibilities from either an at-home genetic testing kit, like ones you purchase from Ancestry DNA or 23andMe, or even genetic testing that may be conducted at your doctor’s office.

Seem unfair? Right now in Florida, unless we change the law this coming legislative session, this is exactly the scenario that life and disability insurance companies are banking on.

Moreover, insurance is about assuming some risk. If this group of insurers were allowed to use genetic information to limit access or price individuals out of the life, long-term care and disability insurance market, it could create a scenario – albeit extreme – where only a small class with superior genes had access. Putting one individual in a higher risk column because a genetic marker is tipping the scales in favor of the insurance company, not the consumer.

It is not right, but these are real-life possibilities consumers could face. This coming legislative session, Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and I intend to fix this and fight to ensure that your genetic test results are yours alone and remain private. We have already filed HB 1189 and SB 1564, and we will ask our colleagues in the Florida House and Senate to join us in passing it this session. It will ensure that genetic testing companies cannot sell or share your results, and it will also prohibit these insurers from utilizing the results to base policies and pricing on genetic testing results.

It is inherent in human nature to want to know our background and our history, and yes, to even know what genetic markers we may or may not have. But that information should remain private and should not be weaponized against Floridians to force them into paying higher insurance premiums to life, long-term care or disability insurers.

With the genetic testing market doubling in size each year and the life insurance industry continuing to show profit and growth in its bottom line, it’s time that consumer protections and privacies also see the same positive trend.

Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, is the Florida House rules chairman and will become House speaker after the November elections.

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