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Australia’s life insurers welcome consultation on the use of genetic test results

The life insurance industry welcomes the Federal Government’s announcement of a consultation paper to seek community feedback on the use of genetic test results by insurers.

The Council of Australian Life Insurers (CALI) supports people to make informed choices about their future and recognises that genetic testing can play an important role in giving people peace of mind.

“Genetic testing can help empower Australians to manage potential health risks in a preventative and personalised way,” said CALI CEO Christine Cupitt.

“Our industry certainly doesn’t want to dissuade people from taking genetic tests or participating in scientific research that gives them more information about their overall health,” Ms Cupitt said.

As the leading voice of life insurers in Australia, CALI has carefully considered improvements in relation to genetic testing that are in the interests of Australian consumers and the broader community.

CALI agrees that the Federal Government should regulate the use of genetic test results by life insurers in the underwriting process.

Regulation should support the Federal Government to make modifications to keep pace with advances in genetic science and healthcare while considering any impacts on the accessibility and affordability of life insurance in the community.

We want to deliver the protection and certainty Australians need on their best and worst days,” she said.

“It’s critical that regulation meets community expectations while also managing the risks and costs of life insurance fairly for everyone insured.”

Australia’s life insurers helped develop a Genetic Testing Moratorium in 2019, which has since been included in the industry’s Life Insurance Code of Practice (Life Code). The Life Code outlines limits on how insurers can use genetic tests results, for example:

  • an insurer will never ask or encourage a person to get a genetic test when applying for life insurance
  • an insurer must not use a person’s genetic test results, unless that person chooses to declare them (except when the insurance cover exceeds limits outlined in the Life Code)
  • if the insurance cover exceeds the financial limits outlined in the Life Code, an insurer can ask a consumer for genetic test results but must not use them unless the test is relevant to the cover applied for (in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act)
  • insurers take into account favourable genetic tests if the consumer chooses to disclose them (for example, to show that they are not carrying a gene pattern associated with developing a hereditary illness) and any evidence-based preventative treatment they have undertaken that reduces their possibility of developing a hereditary illness.

Where insurers are permitted to take genetic tests into account under current regulation, they are just one of several factors considered in underwriting a life insurance policy.

“We want to stand alongside Australians as they face life’s biggest decisions and challenges, whether it’s having a baby, taking out a mortgage, starting a business or planning for retirement.

“A sustainable life insurance industry is critical to ensuring Australians can live in a healthy, confident and secure way over their lifetime.”

The Government’s consultation process will close at the end of January 2024.