Genetics and Health Insurance

Genetics and Health Insurance

"Illinois was the first state to pass the bill that kept insurance companies from using genetic information against their customers"

The Human Genome Project sought to map the entire genetic structure of a person and at the time it was a lofty goal. When the mapping was complete and scientists were able to begin detecting genes that predisposed people to certain diseases such as cancer and diabetes, the insurance industry started to take notice.

A debate raged whether insurance companies should be able to exclude you or charge you a higher premium because you had the chance to contact a specific disease. Patients and doctors thought this should remain private because a predisposition does not mean they will get it.

Illinois was the first state to pass the bill that kept insurance companies from using genetic information against their customers. It took several years and two different revisions, but finally both Republicans and Democrats were able to agree. The insurance industry lobbied heavily against it, but could not overcome sheer morality and common sense.

Other states began to follow suite once Illinois made the precedent and soon the federal government was using the bill as a template for their own. While genetics can play an important part in helping people prepare for a possible disease, it is not the end-all-be-all. It gives people the chance to make changes to their lives to possibly prevent or minimize the disease’s impact.

If this had not happened, then I can only imagine the heartache and suffering it would have caused countless people. Humanity won a major battle when insurance agencies were struck from using genetic information.