The UK government's public consultation on genetic test and insurance has sparked worries of a 'genetic underclass' in the British media. The Genetics and Insurance Committee (GAIC) has just completed a public consultation on the criteria it will use to evaluate the use of certain genetic tests for insurance purposes. Although it is not expected to publish its recommendations until the autumn, several UK newspapers claimed last week that the government had sanctioned the use of such tests.
Opponents fear that genetic testing for insurance purposes will lead to genetic discrimination. 'By allowing insurers to test for even single-gene disorders you are going to get a genetic underclass' said Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris. But insurers argue that testing could help those with a family history of a genetic condition to gain lower premiums.
A spokesman from the Department of Health said that ministers had not made any decisions concerning genetic testing and insurance, and denied newspaper reports that insurance companies would soon make testing compulsory. Malcolm Tarling, of the Association of British Insurers, confirmed that insurers have 'no plans to ask anybody to have a genetic test, regardless of their family history'.
GAIC was set up by the government last year, in response to concerns over the misuse of genetic tests by insurers or employers. It is currently considering the reliability of around ten genetic tests, including ones for cystic fibrosis, Huntington's disease and breast cancer.