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Privacy Commissioner Urges Insurers to Forgo Genetic Testing

By Andrew Rickard | July 15 2014 02:17PM

Canada's privacy watchdog is urging Canadian life and health insurers not to ask for genetic test results.

In a statement published on July 10, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) notes that there are no laws in Canada that specifically address the use of genetic test results by insurance companies.

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) policy is that insurers should not require an applicant to undergo genetic testing. However, if a test has been done, CLHIA says insurers may ask to see the results as they would any other medical history.

"The absence of any specific prohibition on the use of genetic test results by insurers has raised concerns about genetic discrimination and the fear that potential discrimination might act as a deterrent to genetic testing even when clinically advisable," says the OPC.

The OPC commissioned two expert studies to determine if genetic testing is actually necessary to allow life and health insurance companies to assess risks accurately and fairly; both studies found that banning genetic tests would not have a significant impact on insurers or the efficient operation of insurance markets.

"Based on our analysis, 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," concluded the OPC.

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