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September 03, 2014
Avoid genetic testing for insurance, Privacy Commissioner says

The Office of the Privacy Commission of Canada has urged Canada’s life insurers to avoid asking life insurance applicants to provide results of any genetic tests they may have taken.

“We are calling on the industry to refrain from asking for existing test results to assess insurance risk until the industry can clearly show that these tests are necessary and effective in assessing risk,” says Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien.  “This would allow people to undergo genetic testing for various purposes without fear that the results may have a negative impact if they apply for insurance.”

Currently, life insurance companies do not require applicants undergo genetic testing before issuing life insurance policies.  However, they may ask to see the results of genetic tests when an insurance prospect discloses that he or she has taken such tests.

As genetic testing has become more common and less expensive, more people are using the tests to assess or confirm their predisposition to genetic diseases. The tests are also used to verify individuals’ ethnic or racial heritage.
“It is not clear that the collection and use of genetic test results by insurance companies is demonstrably necessary, effective, proportionate or the least intrusive means of achieving the industry’s objectives at this time,” Mr. Therrien says.

The Commissioner’s statement has been forwarded to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), the organization representing Canada’s life insurers.

The statement has also been endorsed by the privacy commissioners of British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec.

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