General Insurance Article - Updated Code on Genetic Testing and Insurance published

The Association of British Insurers and Department for Health and Social Care have today launched an updated Code on the use of genetic testing in the insurance market.

 The Code is the sixth iteration of a long-standing agreement – previously called the Concordat and Moratorium on Genetics and Insurance - launched in 2001 between the ABI and the Government on how insurers use genetic information. Insurers have again committed to not asking customers about predictive genetic test results when applying for insurance.

 The main difference between the updated Code and the previous agreement is that the Code will be open-ended, where the previous version expired every three years unless it was extended. Whilst this change does not mean the agreement is permanent, it should provide reassurance to the public that the insurance industry will seek to manage the need for any future change via the Code.

 The purpose of the Code is to reassure consumers who are worried about personal genetic information being unfavourably considered when applying for insurance.

 The following changes have been made to the code:

 The name of the document has changed. The new name (The Code on Genetic Testing & Insurance) better reflects the longer-term purpose of the document and is more consumer-friendly.

 This Code will now be open-ended with no end date. The previous Concordat & Moratorium ran for three years at a time, whereas the updated Code will be reviewed every three years, but with no end date.

 The ABI and Government will now publish a joint annual report with commentary on developments in the market to keep the industry, and consumers, on top of any changes to the areas of medicine and insurance underwriting covered within the Code.

 The language of the Code has been simplified and made more consumer-friendly. The purpose of the document is to reassure the general public and the language of the Code has been tweaked to reflect this aim.

 The Code is now better able to adapt alongside the ever-changing medical treatments for mental and physical illnesses. The Code will be reviewed every three years but should there ever be a need to change the fundamental principles of the Code then a wider rethink of the agreement will need to be considered.

 The financial limits for life insurance, critical illness and income protection products have not changed, and Huntington’s Disease remains the only exempt illness (for applications for life insurance above £500,000). This means that 100% of applications for life insurance under the value of £500,000 are protected from having to share genetic test results.

 Dr Yvonne Braun, Director of Long-Term Savings and Protection at the ABI said: “We’re very pleased to publish this updated and improved Code on Genetics, having worked on it closely with charities, our members and Government. Removing an ‘end date’ and simplifying the language should provide further reassurance to the general public.

 “Insurers will not require customers to take a genetic test - individuals are only required to disclose previous predictive genetic tests if they both apply for life insurance above £500,000 and if they have tested positive for Huntington’s disease. Policies with a sum assured of more than £500,000 only make up less than 5% of the total, therefore the vast majority of people are not required to disclose any predictive genetic tests when applying for insurance.”

 Jayne Spink, Chief Executive of the Genetics Alliance said: “ By setting out the limited circumstances under which the use of predictive genetic tests by insurers is permitted, the code helps to protect the customer's right to insurance and address the concerns that might otherwise deter individuals from taking genetic tests. In contrast to the previous concordat and moratorium, the code will continue indefinitely. This means that individuals considering whether or not to take a predictive test can do so without the unnecessary complication of worrying about whether this agreement with insurers will come to an abrupt end."

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