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What About Insurance?

More and more genetic tests are being developed to determine people's risk for disease, but as NPR's Michelle Andrews reports at the Shots blog, don't expect insurance companies to pay for all of the tests. Insurers, she says, typically only cover a test if there is strong evidence that there's a health benefit.

"You don't test for testing's sake," Susan Pisano, a spokesperson for the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, tells Andrews.

For instance under the American Affordable Care Act, BRCA gene testing must be covered along with genetic counseling, free of charge, for women with family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

However, testing the APOE gene, which is linked to Alzheimer's disease, is usually not covered. David Finley, the national medical officer for Cigna, says that "[i]t's not enough for a test to be accurate and scientifically reliable. It has to benefit the patient." And the APOE test doesn't meet that standard, he adds.