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Warning: At-home genetic testing could influence some insurance rates

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By Clark Howard Staff, Clark.com

When you do an at-home genetic test like 23andMe, you may get more than you bargained for.

Turns out when you’re shopping for certain kinds of insurance policies, the insurance company has the right to use your test results to shape your insurance quote!

RELATED: Best and worst auto insurance companies

Genetic testing can impact some kinds of insurance

Direct-to-consumer genetic test kits like those sold by 23andMe, Helix and MyHeritage are all the rage these days. People seem fascinated to learn about their ancestry, carrier status, traits and even genetic health risks.

Hey, even you can even get genetic testing on your dog these days!

But there could be an unforeseen gotcha after you send off your own saliva sample to 23andMe and any of its ilk, according to a new report from Kaiser Health News.

You may already know that the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008 says health insurers can’t use your genetic information to discriminate against you when assessing your eligibility and setting rates for you.

However, long term care (LTC) insurers, life insurers and sellers of disability insurance are exempt from that restriction.

That means if you’re applying for an LTC policy, term life insurance or even disability insurance, those insurers have the right to do two things:

  1. Use your genetic test results to decide if they want you as a customer
  2. Use your genetic test results to help set your premium

Catherine Theroux, a spokeswoman for insurance industry trade group LIMRA, tells Kaiser Health News that you’re obligated to tell an insurance company if they ask whether or not you’ve had genetic testing done — even if it was only a 23andMe test in your own home.

Furthermore, you’re obligated to reveal the results of that test. There are no specific protections for you under GINA if you’re talking about underwriting for an LTC, life or disability.

Kaiser Health News notes that a small handful of states may have protections specific to genetic testing and LTC policies. But the lion’s share of states follow federal law on this one.

Depressed yet?

Fortunately, there is one ray of sunshine in all this. If you get a policy and then use an at-home genetic testing kit after the fact, it won’t get you in trouble with the insurer — even if the results come back indicating terrible future health prospects for you.

“Once the policy has been underwritten and issued, the insurer doesn’t revoke the policy if new medical information comes to light,” Theroux said.

Shop smarter for LTC, life and disability insurance

Here at Clark.com, we have written extensively on money expert Clark Howard’s advice for when you want to buy life insurance.

His favorite life insurance product is level term insurance. In case you’re not familiar with the name, it simply means you buy a policy for a set number of years (the term) and the price never changes (it remains level) during that period.

When it come to LTC policies, Clark has an honor roll of companies that write long-term care policies likely to stand the test of time and be there when you need them most. All his picks are rated either A+ or A++ for financial stability by industry credit rating organization A.M. Best.

Maybe you already have an existing LTC policy and you’re facing untenable annual premium increases. Clark has separate advice for what you should do!

Finally, disability insurance is often overlooked by people. But you are three times more likely to become disabled than you are to die before age 65.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking Social Security disability will help you out. The benefits are puny and it’s difficult to qualify under the Social Security Administration rules. You want to get a private policy and Clark has advice to assist when you’re ready to shop around.

More insurance stories on Clark.com

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