Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Insurance and the Age of Personal Genetics

In the age of the personal genome, companies like 23andMe are springing up, offering personal genetic profiling and ancestry tracing. While there are questions about the accuracy of their claims, the interpretation of the results (are we about to see a boom in genetic counsellors?) and other ethical and privacy considerations, the US Senate has made a pro-active move in passing a bill banning genetic discrimination. In short, the bill prohibits employers or insurers to use personal genetic information in decision making. Ars technica takes a closer look at the insurance angle, explaining why the bill is a good idea. From the article:
Worse yet, the very concept [of insurance based on genetics] threatens to undermine another of the greatest potential benefits of the genome: personalized medicine. The goal of personalized medicine is to tailor treatments to a the unique genetic defects that have helped foster a disease, be it diabetes or cancer. But, if insurers can deny coverage based on those same genetic traits, the patient may never see the treatment.


Anonymous Coward said...

In a private system, personal genetic information is costly, you're often best not to know. But in a universal health-care model, personal genetics may actually decrease cost and increase quality of life, by preventing and treating sooner.

Kamel said...

I think the quote I pulled was slightly misleading. The concept being discussed in the quote wasn't personal genetics itself, but insurance based on that information. I've clarified it above.

That said, even in a universal health-care model, there are considerations that a GINA-like bill (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) encompasses like supplementary health coverage and life insurance (not to mention other possibilities for genetic discrimination).

Bayman said...

That's good news, this kind of bill is long overdue. Now to work on eliminating gene-wide patents on diagnostics and therapies...then maybe we will actually be able to use personalized genetics to help people.