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Genetics and Insurance

The knowledge that genetics can provide about our future health could play havoc with the life insurance industry. How can we balance the competing demands of consumers' right to privacy and the insurers' need to assess risks?

By Daniel Altman   April 2001

Imagine a moment of decision. Your father died of Huntington’s disease, a degenerative brain disorder, and so did his father. There’s a strong chance that you, too, carry the genetic mutation that causes Huntington’s. Knowing your family history, insurance companies already want to charge you more for life insurance, your family’s best protection against losing you too soon. But you still want to get tested, so that you can plan for the eventualities of the disease. Then again, testing positive could render you ineligible for life insurance altogether. It’s a classic Catch-22.

Deciding how insurance markets should respond to the…

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