Politicians will consider a motion to introduce regulations that will bar life insurers from discriminating against customers based on their genetic test results.
Federal MP for Macnamara Josh Burns, who chairs the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, introduced the motion last week.
“Many common illnesses including potentially life-threatening ones are strongly influenced by genetic factors,” Mr Burns said during Federal Chamber Proceedings.
“This means that it is possible to determine whether a person is likely to be susceptible to a particular condition by means of genetic testing.”
He says advances in medical technology have led to a “rapid expansion in the scope, availability and use of genetic testing” and the potential to save many lives.
“It should be welcomed but in the case of genetic testing the issue raised is the possibility of discrimination against people found to have a genetic pre-disposition to a particular medical condition,” Mr Burns said.
“The motion before us…discusses one particular issue, the impact of genetic testing on the availability of life insurance, specifically the fact that a positive genetic tests may result adversely in a person’s ability to secure a life insurance policy.”
At present the life industry self-regulates via the latest Code Of Practice, which contains a provision maintaining indefinitely the moratorium for genetic tests. The updated Code came into force on July 1.
But Mr Burns says the current arrangement has gaps, to the detriment of the public.
“It is my belief that stronger intervention is still required, one which will provide protection that cannot be arbitrarily removed by the insurance industry.”
Federal MP Warren Entsch says the existing industry moratorium is “absolutely insufficient” in protecting consumers and “frankly we’re just leaving the foxes in the hen house”.
The Council of Australian Life Insurers (CALI) has expressed support for government regulation on the matter.
“The life insurance industry does not want to dissuade people from taking genetic tests or participating in scientific research,” CALI CEO Christine Cupitt told insuranceNEWS.com.au.
“As the leading voice of life insurance in Australia, CALI recognises that genetic testing can play an important role in empowering Australians to manage health risks in a preventative and personalised way.
“CALI agrees that the Federal Government should regulate the use of genetic test results by life insurers in the underwriting process. We want to ensure regulation meets community expectations.”