Passage of genetic non-discrimination bill may impact affordability of insurance

By The IJ Staff | March 09 2017 01:30PM

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) says the industry is “extremely disappointed” with genetic discrimination bill passed by the House of Commons yesterday and raised concerns about the impact the legislation could have on the affordability of insurance.

Bill S-201 was passed yesterday despite the concerns raised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and cabinet ministers that a part of the bill could be unconstitutional. Most Liberal backbenchers sided with opposition parties to vote for the bill that will provide for protection of genetic characteristics under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

A great concern to insurers

The law would also prohibit anyone from requiring an individual to undergo a genetic test or disclose genetic test results. This is of great concern to insurers.

In an email to The Insurance and Investment Journal, Wendy Hope, vice-president, External Relations, for the CLHIA issued the following statement on behalf of the industry. “The industry agrees with the federal government’s position as expressed by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, as well as a number of provinces, that an important element of the Bill is unconstitutional.”

Unintended consequences

The industry also believes “the Bill would have unintended consequences, including on the affordability of insurance.”

The CLHIA underlined that the industry has a longstanding code related to genetic testing ensuring that “no Canadian will be required to undergo a genetic test as a condition for insurance coverage.”

No information required for policies under $250,000

“We also heard the concerns expressed by Canadians about the use of genetic testing information and that is why we changed the Code to also commit to not asking for genetic testing information for life insurance applications below $250,000. This ensures the middle class can continue to afford the protection they need,” said the CLHIA’s statement.

The industry set the limit to ensure that individuals will not apply for large insurance policies after learning that they have health risks via genetic testing. The affordability of insurance for others could be jeopardized if this occurs, fears the industry.

The CLHIA adds that the industry is reviewing what might be the impact the passage of this Bill on consumers and “is considering its options in light of Parliament’s decision”.