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Sun Life explains how advisors should handle genetic tests in wake of new law

By Alain Thériault | May 18 2017 01:30PM

Photo: Freepik

In a recent message to its financial advisors, Sun Life Financial provided guidance on how advisors should proceed now that the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act is in force.

The new law prohibits anyone from requiring an individual to undergo a genetic test or disclose genetic test results as a condition of providing goods or services, or entering into a contract.

Anyone breaking this law could face a prison term of up to five years and a fine up to $1,000,000.

Don’t ask the question

In the message, a copy of which was obtained by The Insurance and Investment Journal, Sun Life instructed advisors not to ask questions about genetic tests. “Effective immediately, please do not discuss genetic tests with clients or document the results of any genetic tests, especially when asking clients about their personal medical history or their family history,” the message states.

Although clients are required to disclose medical tests completed in the last five years, this no longer applies to genetic test results since the passing of the new legislation May 4.

Inadvertent disclosure

Even if the client provides genetic test information unasked, the insurer will not take it into consideration, says Sun Life’s message. “If clients inadvertently tell you about their genetic test results, please tell them about the new law and our inability to take genetic testing results into consideration as we assess insurance applications.”

The insurer added that it is modifying its questionnaires to exclude all mention of genetic testing. Its applications and questionnaires currently ask clients to provide any test results within the last five years. “We are in the midst of changing our forms to specifically exclude genetic test results. We're also working as quickly as possible to change all affected applications, tele-interview and paramedical forms to help prevent the inadvertent collection of genetic test results,” Sun Life stated.

The company added that it has already made changes to avoid using genetic testing information in its underwriting decision-making process.

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