State Closer To Preventing Insurance Companies From Using Genetic Markers

Jan 23, 2020

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Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) says life insurance companies can use your genetic test against you. He wrote about those tests in a recent op-ed and is pushing a bill in the legislature that would stop the practice. His proposal passed its last stop before the full chamber Thursday.

Every person has genetic markers in their DNA. Those markers show that a person may develop a certain disease. As it becomes more and more common to trace your ancestry using at-home genetic testing kits, health insurance companies are gaining access to the information. They then use that to raise a person’s premiums based on genetic markers.

Federal law already prevents the use of genetic markers for health insurance and Sprowls wants to add a state prohibition. 

“What this bill does is expand that prohibition to life, disability and long term care insurance," he says.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is in support of the bill.

"I’m very concerned about identity theft when it comes to individuals being taken advantage of," Patronis said in a previous interview with WFSU. "To me this is a whole different type of concern where your DNA without proper disclosure can be used and exploited."

He thinks life insurance should be the same as when he last got it.

"The last time I bought a life insurance policy the insurance company at their expense paid for a nurse practitioner to come pay a visit.  Take my resting heart rate, do a blood test, do all of these types of health diagnostic. Want to know if I was a smoker, if I ever consumer alcohol," said Patronis.

“Crossing into this whole DNA world with it and these companies actually sharing and selling the information back is a whole different type of exploitation that I just can’t support or condone." 

Patronis says he likes the concept of the genetic testing companies, but he thinks they ought to tell people what they do with their DNA afterwards.

"Their praying on these wonderful reuniting of family stories which brings a certain level of comfort of putting family members back together that never met," explained Patronis. "So they build this very warm heart touching narrative. But, what you don’t really see is, 'Okay, now that we’ve got 26 million individuals DNA how do we profit'," said Patronis. "That’s not above board, that’s actually in my opinion pretty unethical."

Patronis is talking about the deal that was made between 23 and Me and GlaxoSmithKline a pharmaceutical company. The company invested $300 million into 23andMe, in return they get to use the DNA results from customers who’ve bought the companies genetic testing kits. Patronis thinks people should be allowed to keep that information private.

“I’m not telling anybody don’t go find out who your great great great great grandmother was or where she was from. I think that’s all fine and well," said Patronis. "But you’ve got to create some disclosure some transparency and some ability to allow once you actually perform one of these DNA test that you have rights to protect your personal data.”

The bill now heads to the House Floor while the Senate version is scheduled for its first hearing Tuesday.