The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said that it will extend its moratorium on the use of genetic test results. A voluntary ban already exists in life insurance applications for mortgages of up to £100,000. Now the use of tests for all types of insurance policies of up to £300,000 will be banned for two years.
The moratorium follows recommendations made by the Human Genetics Commission (HGC), which was asked by the government to look into the social and ethical impact of the use of genetic test results by insurers. The HGC had said that the moratorium should last three years and be enforced by legislation. This would give time for the issues to be fully considered.
Baroness Helena Kennedy, chair of the HGC, said that their consultations 'have shown very real public concern on the issue of genetics and insurance'. She also said that on the basis of the evidence collected so far, the HGC has 'profound misgivings about the industry's handling of this information and its ability to keep its own house in order'.
Mary Francis, director of the ABI, said that the extended ban would create a 'period of stability' while permanent rules are considered. However, the ABI expressed concerns that people will buy large amounts of insurance if they have a high genetic risk, and proposed that very high policies should not be covered by the moratorium. But the HGC recommendations said that this exception should only apply to policies over £500,000.
The Department of Health welcomed the recommendations, and Public Health Minister Yvette Cooper said 'we will be considering them in detail. The Government has made it clear that we are concerned about this issue and believes the case has been made for a moratorium, if necessary through legislation while the wider issues are addressed.'